The Missing Million - Edgar Wallace - E-Book

The Missing Million E-Book

Edgar Wallace

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  • Herausgeber: Ktoczyta.pl
  • Kategorie: Krimi
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • Veröffentlichungsjahr: 2018
Beschreibung

When millionaire Rex Walton mysteriously vanishes on the eve of his wedding, a chain of strange, violent events is set in motion. Intrepid Joan Walton assists Inspector Dicker in the search for her brother. The main suspect is notorious criminal „The Panda” („The Prince of Blackmailers”). You quickly find out that Rex has his own connection to the blackmailer. This is a great example of The Golden Age of Detection. It has many more characters than the typical mystery from this era making it difficult, if not impossible, to simply eliminate the Hero Detective, the Heroine Love Interest, and the Obvious Suspect to figure out who the bad guy is. „The Missing Million” is a mystery novel from the prolific author of detective fiction Edgar Wallace.

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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 XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER XXXVI

CHAPTER XXXVII

CHAPTER XXXVIII

CHAPTER XXXIX

CHAPTER XL

CHAPTER XLI

CHAPTER I

“YOU’VE dropped a flower, sir,” said the beef-eater. Detective-Inspector James Sepping blushed and looked down guiltily at the three violets that lay on the gravelled parade ground.

He did not look like a detective, and seemed too youthful to hold any such exalted rank. He had the appearance of an athletic young man about town.

“No–don’t pick them up, unless it is against the regulations of the Tower of London to drop flowers around. They look good there.”

The burly Yeoman of the Guard, in his quaint sixteenth century dress, fingered his grey beard and looked suspiciously at the visitor. Jimmy Sepping appeared to be perfectly sober.

“You’re not supposed to drop paper, but there’s nothing about flowers–thank you, sir.”

Jimmy slipped a coin into the man’s hand.

“I’ve an idea I’ve seen you in the Tower before, sir,” said the beef- eater.

“I have been here before,” drawled Jimmy vaguely.

He had brought that drawl from Oxford to the Metropolitan Police, and it had been the stock joke of the division to which he was drafted in the days when Officer Sepping wore uniform and walked a beat, reciting the Iliad to keep himself awake.

He stood by the flowers until the yeoman strolled away, for he was a sentimentalist, and every year on a certain day he came to the Tower of London to drop a flower on the spot where Fritz Haussman had smiled into a smiling sky. Fritz was a German and a spy. Jimmy had run him to earth and arrested him. Jimmy’s evidence had procured his doom. And then one fine morning in May they had brought him out to shoot him, and he came gaily.

“May I smoke a cigarette?” he asked, and the Provost-Marshal gave him permission. He took the cigarette from his case and was returning it to the waistcoat pocket just above his heart, when he stopped and laughed softly.

“That will rather be in your way,” he smiled, and, finishing his cigarette, he had walked, clear-eyed and still smiling, to the house of death, dying as Jimmy would wish to die, like a gentleman.

So every year came Jimmy to the place where Fritz had stood, and paid homage to manhood.

“Jimmy!”

He turned quickly at the sound of the voice. A girl was looking at him, amusement in her deep blue eyes, a slight figure of a girl.

“Hallo!” he said awkwardly. “You’ve got your hair up!”

She shook her head reproachfully.

“It is very bad manners to make comments upon a lady’s appearance,” she said severely. “Of course I’ve got my hair up. I’m eighteen! What are you doing here?”

He had not seen Joan Walton for two years, and the change in her was amazing. He had never realised before how pretty she was; her self-possession had always been a dominant characteristic, but it had taken the form of a gawky self-assertiveness which had been rather amusing. Joan had suddenly acquired a poise and a dignity which did not seem at all odd or amusing.

“I’ve come to see the Crown Jewels and the dungeons,” he said glibly; “also the tower where the little princes were murdered, and Lady Jane Grey’s initials carved on the wall. I’m a born sightseer.”

She shook her head.

“I don’t believe you. Rex says you are the busiest man in town.”

“Is he here?” he asked quickly.

“He is here–and Dora. He is dining with you, on the night of nights.”

Jimmy chuckled.

“Thursday, isn’t it? Yes, I’ve seen a lot of him lately. What is the matter with him, Joan?”

They were strolling across the quad, and she half turned, making for one of the benches that faced the railed-off space where so many illustrious characters had paid the penalty for treason.

“Sit down–it is an act of providence meeting you. Jimmy, I owe you so much penitence–I won’t say apologies. I used to be horrid to you about your being a policeman. It seemed so funny at the time–”

“Woman, you are forgiven,” said Jimmy magnificently. “The jibes of childhood pass me by, and the pertness of adolescent pulchritude is as the droppings of the gentle rain.”

“You are being rude–and I hate those long words … Jimmy, do you think Rex should marry so soon after Edie’s death?”

The smile left Jimmy’s face.

“I don’t know …” he said slowly. “It is nearly two years, and it would hardly be fair to expect Rex to remain all his life faithful to her memory.”

The girl’s brows knit, and he saw the little hands clench more tightly about the handle of her parasol.

“Why cannot you find this horrible man?” she demanded vehemently. “It is disgraceful that he should be at large, Jimmy! Oh, it was wicked, wicked!”

Jimmy Sepping did not answer. The anonymous letter writer was a difficult proposition in any circumstances, but “Kupie” was no ordinary criminal. The day before Edith Branksome’s marriage, she had been found dead, with a phial of prussic acid in her hand and a letter lying on the floor by the side of the bed. It had been a typical Kupie letter, setting forth cold-bloodedly an escapade of the dead girl that none suspected.

“We have done our best,” said Jimmy quietly.

“Kupie is something more than a spiteful letter writer. There is a big business end to him. He has blackmailed half the prominent men and women in town, and poor Edie is only one whom he has sent to a suicide’s grave.” And then, to change the subject: “You like Dora, don’t you?”

She nodded.

“I’m being a cat even to suggest that the wedding should be postponed. Rex is madly in love with her, and he is very fond of Mr. Coleman. But Rex is worried, Jimmy.”

She shot a warning glance at him and, turning his head, he saw Rex Walton coming toward them.

With him was a girl whose arresting beauty never failed to arouse in the heart of Jimmy Sepping a new admiration. She was tall and fair. Her hair was of that rich golden tint that mothers strive to retain in their children, the live gold of youth. Grey eyes that held the graveness of wisdom, a complexion untouched by artifice. She smiled and waved her hand in greeting, and Jimmy rose to meet her.

Rex Walton was dark, broad-shouldered, and a little sombre of countenance. He was eight years the girl’s senior–exactly Jimmy’s age–and the two men had been at Charterhouse together, had gone up to Oxford in the same term, and had remained fast friends in spite of Rex Walton’s enormous wealth and Jimmy’s comparative poverty.

“What on earth are you doing here, Jimmy?” demanded the new-comer.

“Don’t ask him,” pleaded his sister. “Jimmy has the habit of evasion strongly developed.”

“He’ll tell me the truth,” said the other girl as she sat down. “I think the Tower is wonderful, but it is a little tiring–and there are the dungeons to see.”

“See them with Joan,” said Rex Walton quickly. “I want to talk to Jimmy.”

When Rex was worried, he was brusque and almost uncouth in his manner. Apparently his fiancee had already suffered from his mood, for she accepted his suggestion without question.

“I’ve been a brute this morning,” said Rex when they were left alone, “and if Dora hadn’t the sweetest temper in the world, she would have gone home. Jimmy, I’m rattled! I wish to heaven I could tell you everything!”

“About Kupie?” asked the other quietly.

“Yes … that and more. I’ve been a fool … yet perhaps I haven’t. If I thought I had been a fool I shouldn’t be asking your advice. And I can’t even ask you now without breaking a confidence.”

Rex Walton was a queer mixture of strength and weakness. His simplicity was proverbial, his physical courage had won him a colonelcy in the war, and there was hardly room on his broad chest for the string of decorations he had earned. The only son of a steel magnate, he had inherited a fortune running to the proximity of a million sterling, and his wealth, as Jimmy knew, was one of the principal sources of his worry. Rex had inherited the fortune without a scrap of his father’s business quality. He was a mark for every swindling company promoter, a shining target which no begging-letter writer ever missed. Any plausible scoundrel was assured of his sympathy and help–any man who served with him in the war took money automatically.

“Have you had another letter?” asked Jimmy. For answer, Rex took forth his pocket-case and drew out a grey-tinted sheet of notepaper.

“This morning,” he said tersely.

Jimmy smelt the paper. It had the smoky fragrance which was characteristic of all Kupie’s epistles, and bore neither date nor address. It ran:

If you marry Dora Coleman, I will reduce you to beggary. However secure your money may be, you cannot keep it from me. This is the last time I shall warn you.

K.

Jimmy handed the letter back.

“He has said nothing about Dora … no rakings up from the past?” he asked.

“No–what do you think of it?”

“Twiff,” said Jimmy contemptuously. “How can they take your money?”

Rex shifted uneasily in his seat.

“He took Pelmar’s,” he said. “I had a talk with–with a man who knows a great deal about this scoundrel, and he takes a more serious view than you.”

“Who was that?” asked the detective curiously.

“It wouldn’t be fair to say–in fact, I promised I would not mention that I had spoken. He advised me–” He stopped.

“Was it somebody important–an official?”

“Yes–somebody big at Scotland Yard.”

Jimmy whistled, and the other went on hurriedly. “I should have spoken to you, but I met this other man in peculiar circumstances. He wasn’t very keen on discussing the matter because he’s scared of Kupie too.”

“Who was it?” insisted Jimmy, but here Rex was obstinately silent.

“Take no notice of the letters,” said Jimmy. “That’s about the tenth you’ve received since your engagement was announced, isn’t it? Kupie is clever, but not all-powerful. There are some things he cannot do. Does Dora know?”

He nodded.

“She takes the same view as you, but sometimes she gets very frightened, and that hurts me. Jimmy, can’t the police get this swine?”

Jimmy did not reply for some time, and then:

“I’d give a lot of money to know the police officer who advised you to take Kupie seriously,” he said.

CHAPTER II

IN Room 375, at two o’clock punctually, the Big Three met in committee to discuss the profit and loss of the week. And invariably Bill Dicker was in the chair, and as invariably Jimmy Sepping acted as secretary, for he was the junior of the three. Miller, a dark, unemotional man, was the third.

Every week between the hours of two and four the Big Three discussed the week’s “trading,” examined profit and loss, compared plans for the coming week and passed under review the reports of subordinates.

No. 375 was not a very large office, and in spite of opened windows and electric fans the atmosphere was usually blue, for these men were great smokers of pipes–all except Sepping, who had a weakness for the brown cylinders of peace which Havana produces in large quantities.

On this bright May afternoon the sun was shining through the oriel windows, and there was a disposition on the part of the committee to let their eyes wander to the glittering river and the leisurely stream of traffic which passed up and down; to the vivid green of the spring foliage which fringed the broad boulevard of the Embankment; to the sweep of the County Council’s gay new palace on the other side of the river–to anything except the trivialities which occupied or were designed to occupy their attention.

Only Bill Dicker, huddled up in his big chair at the head of the table, a picture of gloomy thought, never allowed his eyes to wander.

“What about that job at Greenwich?” asked the round-headed Miller, making a laudable attempt to galvanise the assembly into life.

“Harry Feld did that,” replied Dicker sombrely. “By the way, Jimmy, you might mark the officer who sent the account to head-quarters; recommend him for promotion–he has probably got the necessary certificate. A smart man; the report he sent was a model of its kind. Yes, Feld did the robbery; he was pulled in this afternoon. Queer how these fellows specialise–Feld, I mean. He has never stolen anything in his life but bolts of cloth. I suppose he knows where to ‘fence’ it.”

“The Hertford murder hasn’t come on to our books?” asked Jimmy.

Dicker shook his head.

“They haven’t asked for assistance. The Hertford police never call in head-quarters until they’ve let the trail get all trodden up.”

Miller rose and stretched himself.

“That’s about all, chief?” he asked. “By the way, we’ve located the factory where those American bills are made–but you had that in my report.”

Bill Dicker nodded.

“I’m hoping we’ll get this crowd, anyway. When Tony Frascati got away with a hundred thousand sterling we didn’t shine, Joe. I still think that somebody at central office tipped him off.”

There was no significance in his words; they were addressed to the room; it was almost as though he was speaking his thoughts aloud. But the dark face of Chief Inspector Miller flushed a deep red.

“I was in charge of the case, sir,” he said stiffly, and when any of the Big Three addressed one another as “sir,” there was trouble brewing. “We made every effort to catch Tony–I myself was at Dover watching the cross- Channel boats–”

“Surely,” said Bill with one of his infrequent smiles. “It might have happened to any of us. Tony, being a forger on the grand scale, must have got one of our men squared. You couldn’t help that, Joe. Anyway, Tony’s dead–and it’s seven years ago.”

“I offered my resignation–” began Miller, but the other stopped him with a gesture.

“Forget it. We all have our failures. There is only one other matter,” he said slowly, “and, Jimmy, you’re interested in this: Kupie!”

“Lord, Bill, I forgot that you were going,” said Jimmy in dismay. “And I wanted to talk to you about Kupie.”

“And that was the one matter I wished to speak about,” said Bill Dicker, rubbing his nose thoughtfully. “Kupie has to be stopped. You read what the Westminster coroner said about the Shale case? That’s the second suicide this year, and there will be others. We can’t have any idea how many people Kupie is after. I’ve been forty-three years in the police service, and I could count my failures on one hand. That sounds like boasting, but it isn’t. There isn’t a crook living that I’ve been after and haven’t got. The four I didn’t get are dead, anyway.”

Chief Superintendent William Dicker spoke no more than the truth. Wherever convict met convict, they testified to his genius, his cunning, his ruthlessness. Men had walked dazed to the death house, the memory of his dour face present in their minds, even with the dangling rope before their eyes, his last grim jest overriding the whispered exhortations of the surpliced minister who attended them.

It was to Bill Dicker, who served before the mast of a windjammer for nine hellish months before rounding the Horn on the homeward trip, that Charles Barser, the bos’n, confided his share in the Telmark murder. Barser was drunk, and it was in the middle watch, when men are not normal–but he went to the gallows on Bill Dicker’s evidence. “But Kupie has me rattled,” he went on in his slow way. “It is a reproach to the police that this should be so, even though only a few of his victims have squealed.”

“There won’t be so many more squealing either,” said Jimmy, lighting his cigar again. “Do you remember that City man that came here and wanted us to get back the letters he’d written to a chorus girl?”

“He hasn’t been since–what happened?” asked Dicker.

“Kupie had the letters reproduced and printed. Every pal of his had a copy–his wife, his mother, his business associates, banker–everybody that counted. Kupie only circularised one of the letters–the City man paid. I had Collett up here to-day–Lawford Collett, the lawyer who had the case in hand. He says he advised the fellow not to pay a cent, but he’s settled: cost him eight thousand. That is the new terror which he has introduced.”

“Are there any fresh cases?” asked Dicker.

“Walton–but that isn’t fresh,” said Jimmy. “He has my poor friend rattled too. By the way, Miller,” he turned suddenly to the dark-visaged man on his right, “you don’t know Walton, do you?”

“Slightly,” said the other.

“Have you ever spoken to him?”

“I may have done–why?”

There was resentment in his tone.

“He was telling me that somebody had advised him to take Kupie seriously. Somebody who seems to have pitched a ghost story about Kupie’s omnipotence.”

Miller’s face was dark.

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘ghost story,’” he said sharply. “I certainly advised Mr. Walton to take a certain action which had been suggested to him. If you think Kupie–”

“Now, you fellows, don’t snarl at one another,” Bill Dicker interrupted. “I’ve a great respect for the power of Kupie: he has surely a fund of information about people–”

He stopped as the door opened and a uniformed constable came in, a letter in his hand.

“For me?” said Miller. He tore open the envelope and took out two sheets of typewritten matter. Dicker was talking to Jimmy when he heard the cry, and spun round. Miller was standing by the window, one hand at his throat, the other grasping the letter. His saturnine face was dead white, his eyes staring wildly.

“For God’s sake!” said Bill Dicker, springing to the man’s side. “What’s wrong, Miller?”

Miller shook his head.

“Nothing … nothing,” he said huskily. “Excuse me …”

He went out quickly; they heard the door of his room close, and the two men looked at one another.

“What’s the matter with Miller–bad news?” Jimmy shook his head helplessly.

“I don’t know. He isn’t married, so it can’t be family trouble. You know what he is; he never takes you into his–”

He stopped. The sound of the shot came distinctly, and in another second he was across the passage and was at Miller’s door. It was locked. “Pass- key,” said Dicker tersely, and Jimmy fled down the corridor. He was back almost immediately and Dicker unlocked the door and threw it wide open.

A thin blue wisp of smoke hung in the air, moving slowly. On the hearthrug lay Miller, a revolver clenched in his hand.

Jimmy saw the burning paper in the grate, and, stooping, blew out the flame. Only one particle of the paper remained.

“He’s dead,” said Dicker. “What’s that? Break off the unburnt bit–we’ll have the ashes photographed.”

Jimmy Sepping laid the charred scrap on the desk, and in seven words and a half-burnt picture it told its story.

Fifty thousand . .

Tony Fra . .

Escape …

Banked …

Norwich …

Beneath was a part of the letter K.

“He banked at Norwich–I know that,” said Dicker, and put his foot on the ashes in the grate. “And he let Tony go for half the loot; I guessed that too. And Kupie knew it.”

He struck a match and burnt the scrap of paper. When it was ashes he dropped it into the grate.

“Never mind about that photographer, Jimmy,” he said. “We’d better say he’d been strange in his manner lately–the service must come first.”

He stooped and patted the dead man’s shoulder.

“Poor fellow!” he said gently. “I’ll get Kupie, Miller, and get him good!”

CHAPTER III

IF the detection of crime was as simple as the average detective story, I should solve all the mysteries of the world before I got out of bed, said Jimmy Sepping. It is a pretty simple business, once all the characters have been introduced and youve had an opportunity of studying their various peculiarities, to narrow your suspicions down to two or three people. Obviously, the villain of the piece cannot be the open-faced hero with the curly hair, however damning the evidence may be against him. As obviously it cannot be the pure, blue-eyed heroine, or the inevitable friend of the family.

Rex Walton laughed softly and filled his glass from the long-necked bottle. He was dining at Jimmys flat, and he was very ready to find life amusing, for it was the last night of his bachelorhood. Jimmy went on.

If all villains were tall, dark men, who wore cloaks and sombreros and a sinister expression, and blue eyes were invariably a proof of innocence, life would run very smoothly–wait!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollst?ndigen Ausgabe!