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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesClue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter IX
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Clue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter IX Post by :research Category :Long Stories Author :Edgar Wallace Date :April 2011 Read :2457

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Clue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter IX

"My dear Mr. Meredith,

"I cannot tell you how unhappy and humiliated I feel that my
little joke with you should have had such an uncomfortable
ending. As you know, and as I have given you proof, I have the
greatest admiration in the world for one whose work for
humanity has won such universal recognition.

"I hope that we shall both forget this unhappy morning and that
you will give me an opportunity of rendering to you in person,
the apologies which are due to you. I feel that anything less
will neither rehabilitate me in your esteem, nor secure for me
the remnants of my shattered self-respect.

"I am hoping you will dine with me next week and meet a most
interesting man, George Gathercole, who has just returned from
Patagonia, - I only received his letter this morning - having
made most remarkable discoveries concerning that country.

"I feel sure that you are large enough minded and too much a man
of the world to allow my foolish fit of temper to disturb a
relationship which I have always hoped would be mutually
pleasant. If you will allow Gathercole, who will be
unconscious of the part he is playing, to act as peacemaker
between yourself and myself, I shall feel that his trip, which
has cost me a large sum of money, will not have been wasted.

"I am, dear Mr. Meredith,
"Yours very sincerely,
"REMINGTON KARA."

Kara folded the letter and inserted it in its envelope. He rang a
bell on his table and the girl who had so filled T. X. with a
sense of awe came from an adjoining room.

"You will see that this is delivered, Miss Holland."

She inclined her head and stood waiting. Kara rose from his desk
and began to pace the room.

"Do you know T. X. Meredith?" he asked suddenly.

"I have heard of him," said the girl.

"A man with a singular mind," said Kara; "a man against whom my
favourite weapon would fail."

She looked at him with interest in her eyes.

"What is your favourite weapon, Mr. Kara?" she asked.

"Fear," he said.

If he expected her to give him any encouragement to proceed he was
disappointed. Probably he required no such encouragement, for in
the presence of his social inferiors he was somewhat monopolizing.

"Cut a man's flesh and it heals," he said. "Whip a man and the
memory of it passes, frighten him, fill him with a sense of
foreboding and apprehension and let him believe that something
dreadful is going to happen either to himself or to someone he
loves - better the latter - and you will hurt him beyond
forgetfulness. Fear is a tyrant and a despot, more terrible than
the rack, more potent than the stake. Fear is many-eyed and sees
horrors where normal vision only sees the ridiculous."

"Is that your creed?" she asked quietly.

"Part of it, Miss Holland," he smiled.

She played idly with the letter she held in her hand, balancing it
on the edge of the desk, her eyes downcast.

"What would justify the use of such an awful weapon?" she asked.

"It is amply justified to secure an end," he said blandly. "For
example - I want something - I cannot obtain that something
through the ordinary channel or by the employment of ordinary
means. It is essential to me, to my happiness, to my comfort, or
my amour-propre, that that something shall be possessed by me. If
I can buy it, well and good. If I can buy those who can use their
influence to secure this thing for me, so much the better. If I
can obtain it by any merit I possess, I utilize that merit,
providing always, that I can secure my object in the time,
otherwise"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"I see," she said, nodding her head quickly. "I suppose that is
how blackmailers feel."

He frowned.

"That is a word I never use, nor do I like to hear it employed,"
he said. "Blackmail suggests to me a vulgar attempt to obtain
money."

"Which is generally very badly wanted by the people who use it,"
said the girl, with a little smile, "and, according to your
argument, they are also justified."

"It is a matter of plane," he said airily. "Viewed from my
standpoint, they are sordid criminals - the sort of person that T.
X. meets, I presume, in the course of his daily work. T. X., he
went on somewhat oracularly, "is a man for whom I have a great
deal of respect. You will probably meet him again, for he will
find an opportunity of asking you a few questions about myself. I
need hardly tell you - "

He lifted his shoulders with a deprecating smile.

"I shall certainly not discuss your business with any person,"
said the girl coldly.

"I am paying you 3 pounds a week, I think," he said. "I intend
increasing that to 5 pounds because you suit me most admirably."

"Thank you," said the girl quietly, "but I am already being paid
quite sufficient."

She left him, a little astonished and not a little ruffled.

To refuse the favours of Remington Kara was, by him, regarded as
something of an affront. Half his quarrel with T. X. was that
gentleman's curious indifference to the benevolent attitude which
Kara had persistently adopted in his dealings with the detective.

He rang the bell, this time for his valet.

"Fisher," he said, "I am expecting a visit from a gentleman named
Gathercole - a one-armed gentleman whom you must look after if he
comes. Detain him on some pretext or other because he is rather
difficult to get hold of and I want to see him. I am going out
now and I shall be back at 6.30. Do whatever you can to prevent
him going away until I return. He will probably be interested if
you take him into the library."

"Very good, sir," said the urbane Fisher, "will you change before
you go out?"

Kara shook his head.

"I think I will go as I am," he said. "Get me my fur coat. This
beastly cold kills me," he shivered as he glanced into the bleak
street. "Keep my fire going, put all my private letters in my
bedroom, and see that Miss Holland has her lunch."

Fisher followed him to his car, wrapped the fur rug about his
legs, closed the door carefully and returned to the house. From
thence onward his behaviour was somewhat extraordinary for a
well-bred servant. That he should return to Kara's study and set
the papers in order was natural and proper.

That he should conduct a rapid examination of all the drawers in
Kara's desk might be excused on the score of diligence, since he
was, to some extent, in the confidence of his employer.

Kara was given to making friends of his servants - up to a point.
In his more generous moments he would address his bodyguard as
"Fred," and on more occasions than one, and for no apparent
reason, had tipped his servant over and above his salary.

Mr. Fred Fisher found little to reward him for his search until he
came upon Kara's cheque book which told him that on the previous
day the Greek had drawn 6,000 pounds in cash from the bank. This
interested him mightily and he replaced the cheque book with the
tightened lips and the fixed gaze of a man who was thinking
rapidly. He paid a visit to the library, where the secretary was
engaged in making copies of Kara's correspondence, answering
letters appealing for charitable donations, and in the hack words
which fall to the secretaries of the great.

He replenished the fire, asked deferentially for any instructions
and returned again to his quest. This time he made the bedroom
the scene of his investigations. The safe he did not attempt to
touch, but there was a small bureau in which Kara would have
placed his private correspondence of the morning. This however
yielded no result.

By the side of the bed on a small table was a telephone, the sight
of which apparently afforded the servant a little amusement. This
was the private 'phone which Kara had been instrumental in having
fixed to Scotland Yard - as he had explained to his servants.

"Rum cove," said Fisher.

He paused for a moment before the closed door of the room and
smilingly surveyed the great steel latch which spanned the door
and fitted into an iron socket securely screwed to the framework.
He lifted it gingerly - there was a little knob for the purpose -
and let it fall gently into the socket which had been made to
receive it on the door itself.

"Rum cove," he said again, and lifting the latch to the hook which
held it up, left the room, closing the door softly behind him. He
walked down the corridor, with a meditative frown, and began to
descend the stairs to the hall.

He was less than half-way down when the one maid of Kara's
household came up to meet him.

"There's a gentleman who wants to see Mr. Kara," she said, "here
is his card."

Fisher took the card from the salver and read, "Mr. George
Gathercole, Junior Travellers' Club."

"I'll see this gentleman," he said, with a sudden brisk interest.

He found the visitor standing in the hall.

He was a man who would have attracted attention, if only from the
somewhat eccentric nature of his dress and his unkempt appearance.
He was dressed in a well-worn overcoat of a somewhat pronounced
check, he had a top-hat, glossy and obviously new, at the back of
his head, and the lower part of his face was covered by a ragged
beard. This he was plucking with nervous jerks, talking to
himself the while, and casting a disparaging eye upon the portrait
of Remington Kara which hung above the marble fireplace. A pair
of pince-nez sat crookedly on his nose and two fat volumes under
his arm completed the picture. Fisher, who was an observer of
some discernment, noticed under the overcoat a creased blue suit,
large black boots and a pair of pearl studs.

The newcomer glared round at the valet.

"Take these!" he ordered peremptorily, pointing to the books under
his arm.

Fisher hastened to obey and noted with some wonder that the
visitor did not attempt to assist him either by loosening his hold
of the volumes or raising his hand. Accidentally the valet's hand
pressed against the other's sleeve and he received a shock, for
the forearm was clearly an artificial one. It was against a
wooden surface beneath the sleeve that his knuckles struck, and
this view of the stranger's infirmity was confirmed when the other
reached round with his right hand, took hold of the gloved left
hand and thrust it into the pocket of his overcoat.

"Where is Kara?" growled the stranger.

"He will be back very shortly, sir," said the urbane Fisher.

"Out, is he?" boomed the visitor. "Then I shan't wait. What the
devil does he mean by being out? He's had three years to be out!"

"Mr. Kara expects you, sir. He told me he would be in at six
o'clock at the latest."

"Six o'clock, ye gods'." stormed the man impatiently. "What dog
am I that I should wait till six?"

He gave a savage little tug at his beard.

"Six o'clock, eh? You will tell Mr. Kara that I called. Give me
those books."

"But I assure you, sir, - " stammered Fisher.

"Give me those books!" roared the other.

Deftly he lifted his left hand from the pocket, crooked the elbow
by some quick manipulation, and thrust the books, which the valet
most reluctantly handed to him, back to the place from whence he
had taken them.

"Tell Mr. Kara I will call at my own time - do you understand, at
my own time. Good morning to you."

"If you would only wait, sir," pleaded the agonized Fisher.

"Wait be hanged," snarled the other. "I've waited three years, I
tell you. Tell Mr. Kara to expect me when he sees me!"

He went out and most unnecessarily banged the door behind him.
Fisher went back to the library. The girl was sealing up some
letters as he entered and looked up.

"I am afraid, Miss Holland, I've got myself into very serious
trouble."

"What is that, Fisher!" asked the girl.

"There was a gentleman coming to see Mr. Kara, whom Mr. Kara
particularly wanted to see."

"Mr. Gathercole," said the girl quickly.

Fisher nodded.

"Yes, miss, I couldn't get him to stay though."

She pursed her lips thoughtfully.

"Mr. Kara will be very cross, but I don't see how you can help it.
I wish you had called me,"

"He never gave a chance, miss," said Fisher, with a little smile,
"but if he comes again I'll show him straight up to you."

She nodded.

"Is there anything you want; miss?" he asked as he stood at the
door.

"What time did Mr. Kara say he would be back?"

"At six o'clock, miss," the man replied.

"There is rather an important letter here which has to be
delivered."

"Shall I ring up for a messenger?"

"No, I don't think that would be advisable. You had better take
it yourself."

Kara was in the habit of employing Fisher as a confidential
messenger when the occasion demanded such employment.

"I will go with pleasure, miss," he said.

It was a heaven-sent opportunity for Fisher, who had been
inventing some excuse for leaving the house. She handed him the
letter and he read without a droop of eyelid the superscription

"T. X. Meredith, Esq., Special Service Dept., Scotland Yard,
Whitehall."

He put it carefully in his pocket and went from the room to
change. Large as the house was Kara did not employ a regular
staff of servants. A maid and a valet comprised the whole of the
indoor staff. His cook, and the other domestics, necessary for
conducting an establishment of that size, were engaged by the day.

Kara had returned from the country earlier than had been
anticipated, and, save for Fisher, the only other person in the
house beside the girl, was the middle-aged domestic who was
parlour-maid, serving-maid and housekeeper in one.

Miss Holland sat at her desk to all appearance reading over the
letters she had typed that afternoon but her mind was very far
from the correspondence before her. She heard the soft thud of
the front door closing, and rising she crossed the room rapidly
and looked down through the window to the street. She watched
Fisher until he was out of sight; then she descended to the hall
and to the kitchen.

It was not the first visit she had made to the big underground
room with its vaulted roof and its great ranges - which were
seldom used nowadays, for Kara gave no dinners.

The maid - who was also cook - arose up as the girl entered.

"It's a sight for sore eyes to see you in my kitchen, miss," she
smiled.

"I'm afraid you're rather lonely, Mrs. Beale," said the girl
sympathetically.

"Lonely, miss!" cried the maid. "I fairly get the creeps sitting
here hour after hour. It's that door that gives me the hump."

She pointed to the far end of the kitchen to a soiled looking door
of unpainted wood.

"That's Mr. Kara's wine cellar - nobody's been in it but him. I
know he goes in sometimes because I tried a dodge that my brother
- who's a policeman - taught me. I stretched a bit of white
cotton across it an' it was broke the next morning."

"Mr. Kara keeps some of his private papers in there," said the
girl quietly, "he has told me so himself."

"H'm," said the woman doubtfully, "I wish he'd brick it up - the
same as he has the lower cellar - I get the horrors sittin' here
at night expectin' the door to open an' the ghost of the mad lord
to come out - him that was killed in Africa."

Miss Holland laughed.

"I want you to go out now," she said, "I have no stamps."

Mrs. Beale obeyed with alacrity and whilst she was assuming a hat
- being desirous of maintaining her prestige as housekeeper in the
eyes of Cadogan Square, the girl ascended to the upper floor.

Again she watched from the window the disappearing figure.

Once out of sight Miss Holland went to work with a remarkable
deliberation and thoroughness. From her bag she produced a small
purse and opened it. In that case was a new steel key. She
passed swiftly down the corridor to Kara's room and made straight
for the safe.

In two seconds it was open and she was examining its contents. It
was a large safe of the usual type. There were four steel drawers
fitted at the back and at the bottom of the strong box. Two of
these were unlocked and contained nothing more interesting than
accounts relating to Kara's estate in Albania.

The top pair were locked. She was prepared for this contingency
and a second key was as efficacious as the first. An examination
of the first drawer did not produce all that she had expected.
She returned the papers to the drawer, pushed it to and locked it.
She gave her attention to the second drawer. Her hand shook a
little as she pulled it open. It was her last chance, her last
hope.

There were a number of small jewel-boxes almost filling the
drawer. She took them out one by one and at the bottom she found
what she had been searching for and that which had filled her
thoughts for the past three months.

It was a square case covered in red morocco leather. She inserted
her shaking hand and took it out with a triumphant little cry.

"At last," she said aloud, and then a hand grasped her wrist and
in a panic she turned to meet the smiling face of Kara.

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Clue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter X
She felt her knees shake under her and thought she was going toswoon. She put out her disengaged hand to steady herself, and ifthe face which was turned to him was pale, there was a steadfastresolution in her dark eyes."Let me relieve you of that, Miss Holland," said Kara, in hissilkiest tones.He wrenched rather than took the box from her hand, replaced itcarefully in the drawer, pushed the drawer to and locked it,examining the key as he withdrew it. Then he closed the safe andlocked that."Obviously," he said presently, "I must get a new safe."He had not released his
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Clue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter VIII Clue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter VIII

Clue Of The Twisted Candle - Chapter VIII
Two years after the events just described, T. X. journeying up toLondon from Bath was attracted by a paragraph in the Morning Post.It told him briefly that Mr. Remington Kara, the influentialleader of the Greek Colony, had been the guest of honor at adinner of the Hellenic Society.T. X. had only seen Kara for a brief space of time following thattragic morning, when he had discovered not only that his bestfriend had escaped from Dartmoor prison and disappeared, as itwere, from the world at a moment when his pardon had been signed,but that that friend's wife had also vanished from the
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