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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cinema Murder - Book 3 - Chapter 15
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The Cinema Murder - Book 3 - Chapter 15 Post by :littleRock Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :2022

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The Cinema Murder - Book 3 - Chapter 15

BOOK III CHAPTER XV

Late though it was when Philip reached his rooms, he found on his writing table a message addressed to him from the telephone call office in the building. He tore it open:

"Kindly ring up Number 551 Avenue immediately you return, whatever the time."

He glanced at the clock, hesitated, and finally approaching the instrument called up Elizabeth's number. For a few moments he waited. The silence in the streets outside seemed somehow to have become communicated to the line, the space between them emptied of all the jarring sounds of the day. It was across a deep gulf of silence that he heard at last her voice.

"Yes? Is that you, Philip?"

"I am here," he answered. "I am sorry it is so late."

"Have you only just come in?"

"This moment."

"Has that girl kept you out till now?" she asked reprovingly.

"I couldn't help it," he replied. "It was her first night over here. I took her to Churchill's for supper."

"Is everything--all right with her? She doesn't mean to make trouble?"

The unconscious irony of the question almost forced a smile to his lips.

"I don't think so," he answered. "She is thoroughly excited at the idea of possessing the money. I believe she thought that Douglas would have drawn it all. She is going straight to the bank, early in the morning, to get hold of it."

"What about the man Dane?"

"He has gone to Chicago. He won't be back for several days."

There was a moment's pause.

"Have you anything to ask me?" she enquired.

"Nothing."

"I have had the most extraordinary letter from Sylvanus. You and he have met."

"Yes," he admitted.

"Philip, we must make up our minds."

"You mean that you must make up your mind," he answered gently.

There was another silence. Then she spoke a little abruptly.

"I wonder whether you really love me, Philip.... No! don't, please--don't try to answer such a foolish question. Go to bed and sleep well now. You've had a trying day. Good night, dear!"

He had barely time to say good night before he heard the ring off. He set down the receiver. Somehow, there was a sensation of relief in having been, although indirectly, in touch with her. The idea of the letter from Sylvanus Power affected him only hazily. The crowded events of the day had somehow or other dulled his power of concentrated thought. He felt a curious sense of passivity. He undressed without conscious effort, closed his eyes, and slept until he was awakened by the movements of the valet about the room.

Philip was still seated over his breakfast, reading the paper and finishing his coffee, when the door was thrown suddenly open, and Beatrice entered tumultuously. She laughed at his air of blank surprise.

"You booby!" she exclaimed. "I couldn't help coming in to wish you good morning. I have just discovered that my hotel is quite close by here. Lucky, isn't it, except that I am going to move. Good morning, Mr. Serious Face!" she went on, leaning towards him, her hands behind her, her lips held out invitingly.

He set down his paper, kissed her on the cheek, and looked inside the coffeepot.

"Have you had your breakfast?"

"Hours ago. I was too excited to sleep when I got to bed, and yet I feel so well. Philip, where's Wall Street? Won't you take me there?"

He shook his head.

"I am expecting a visitor, and I have piles of work to do."

She made a grimace.

"I know I shall be terrified when I march up to the counter of the bank and say I've come for twenty thousand pounds!"

"You must transfer it to a current account," he explained, "in your own name. Have you any papers with you--for identification, I mean?"

She nodded.

"I've thought of all that. I've a photograph and a passport and some letters. It isn't that I'm really afraid, but I hate being alone, and you look so nice, Philip dear. I always loved you in blue serge, and I adore your eyeglass. You really have been clever in the small things you have done to change your appearance. Perhaps you are right not to come, though," she went on, looking in the mirror. "These clothes are the best I could get at a minute's notice. Mr. Dane was really quite nice, but he hadn't the least idea how long it takes a woman to prepare for a journey. Never mind, you wait until I get back here this afternoon! I am going round to all the shops, and I am going to bring the clothes I buy away with me. Then I am going to lock myself in my room and change everything. I am going to have some of those funny little patent shoes, and silk stockings--and, oh, well, all sorts of things you wouldn't understand about. And do try and cheer up before I get back, please, Philip. Twelve months ago you would have thought all this Paradise. Oh, I can't stop a moment longer!" she wound up, throwing away the cigarette she had taken from the box and lit. "I'm off now. And, Philip, don't you dare to go out of these rooms until I come back!"

She turned towards the door--she was half-way there, in fact--when they were both aware of a ring at the bell. She stopped short and looked around enquiringly.

"Who's that?" she whispered.

Philip glanced at the clock. It was too early for Elizabeth.

"No idea," he answered. "Come in."

The door opened and closed. Philip sat as though turned to stone. Beatrice remained in the middle of the room, her fingers clasping the back of a chair. Mr. Dane, hat in hand, had entered.

"Good morning, Miss Wenderley!" he said. "Good morning, Mr. Ware!"

Philip said nothing. He had a horrible feeling that this was some trap. Beatrice at first could only stare at the unexpected visitor. His sudden appearance had disconcerted her.

"I thought you were in Chicago, Mr. Dane!" she exclaimed at last.

"My plans were altered at the last moment," he told her. "No, I won't sit down, thanks," he added, waving away the chair towards which Philip had pointed. "As a matter of fact, I haven't been out of New York. I decided to wait and hear your news, Miss Wenderley."

"Well, you're going to be disappointed, then," she said bluntly. "I haven't any."

Mr. Dane was politely incredulous. He was also a little stern.

"You mean," he protested, "that you cannot identify this gentleman--that you don't recognise him as Mr. Douglas Romilly?"

"I cannot identify him," she repeated. "He is not Mr. Douglas Romilly."

"I have brought you all this way, then, to confront you with a stranger?"

"Absolutely," she insisted. "It wasn't my fault. I didn't want to come."

Mr. Dane's expression suddenly changed. His hard knuckles were pressed upon the table, he leaned forward towards her. Even his tone was altered. His blandness had all vanished, his grey eyes were as hard as steel.

"A stranger!" he exclaimed derisively. "Yet you come here to his rooms early in the evening, you stay here, you go to the theatre with him the same night, you go on to supper at Churchill's and stay there till three o'clock in the morning, you are here with him again at nine o'clock--at breakfast time. A stranger, Miss Wenderley? Think again! A story like this might do for Scotland Yard. It won't do for us out here."

She knew at once that she had fallen into a trap, but she was not wholly dismayed. The position was one which they had half anticipated. She told herself that he was bluffing, that it was simply the outburst of a disappointed man. On the whole, she behaved extraordinarily well.

"You brought me out here," she said, "to confront me with this man--to identify him, if I could, as Mr. Douglas Romilly. Well, he isn't Mr. Douglas Romilly, and that's all there is about it. As to my going out with him last evening, I can't see that that's any concern of any one. He was kind to me, cheered me up when he saw that I was disappointed; I told him my whole story and that I didn't know a soul in New York, and we became friends. That's all there is about it."

"That so?" the detective observed, with quiet sarcasm. "You seem to have a knack of making friends pretty easily, Miss Wenderley."

"It is not your business if I have," she snapped.

"Well, we'll pass that, then," he conceded. "I haven't quite finished with you yet, though. There are just one or two more points I am going to put before you--and this gentleman who is not Mr. Douglas Romilly," he added, with a little bow to Philip. "The first is this. There is one fact which we can all three take for granted, because I know it--I can prove it a hundred times over--and you both know it; and that is that the Mr. Merton Ware of to-day travelled from Liverpool on the _Elletania as Mr. Douglas Romilly, occupied a room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel as Mr. Douglas Romilly, and absconded from there, leaving his luggage and his identity behind him, to blossom out in an attic of the Monmouth tenement house as Mr. Merton Ware, a young writer of plays. Now I don't think," Mr. Dane went on, leaning a little further over the table, "that the Mr. Douglas Romilly who has disappeared was ever capable of writing a play. I don't think he was a man of talent at all. I don't think he could have written, for instance, 'The House of Shams.' Let us, however, leave the subject of Douglas Romilly for a moment. Let us go a little further back--to Detton Magna, let us say. Curiously enough, there was another young man who disappeared from that little Derbyshire village about the same time, who has never been heard of since. His name, too, was Romilly. I gathered, during the course of my recent enquiries, that he was a poor relation, a cousin of Mr. Douglas Romilly."

"He was drowned in the canal," Beatrice faltered. "His body has been found."

"A body has been found," Mr. Dane corrected, "but it was in an unrecognisable state. It has been presumed to be the body of Philip Romilly, the poor relation, a starving young art teacher in London with literary aspirations--but I hold that that presumption is a mistake. I believe," the detective went on, his eyes fastened upon Philip, his voice a little raised, "that it was the body of Douglas Romilly, the shoe manufacturer, which was fished out from the canal, and that you, sir, are Mr. Philip Romilly, late art-school teacher of Kensington, who murdered Douglas Romilly on the banks of the canal, stole his money and pocketbook, assumed his identity in Liverpool and on the _Elletania_, and became what you are now--Mr. Merton Ware."

Philip threw away the cigarette which he had been smoking, and, leaning over the box, carefully selected another. He tapped it against the table and lit it.

"Mr. Dane," he said coolly, "I shall always be grateful to you for your visit this morning, for you have given me what is the most difficult thing in the whole world to stumble up against--an excellent idea for a new play. Apart from that, you seem, for so intelligent a man, to have wasted a good deal of your time and to have come, what we should call in English, a cropper. I will take you into my confidence so far as to admit that I am not particularly anxious to disclose my private history, but if ever the necessity should arise I shall do so without hesitation. Until that time comes, you must forgive me if I choose to preserve a certain reticence as to my antecedents."

Mr. Dane, in the moment's breathless silence which followed, acknowledged to himself the perpetration of a rare mistake. He had selected Philip to bear the brunt of his attack, believing him to be possessed of the weaker nerve. Beatrice, who at the end of his last speech had sunk into a chair, white and terrified, an easy victim, had rallied now, inspired by Philip's composure.

"You deny, then, that you are Mr. Philip Romilly?" the detective asked.

"I never heard of the fellow in my life," Philip replied pleasantly, "but don't go, Mr. Dane. You can't imagine how interesting this is to me. You have sent me a most charming acquaintance," he added, bowing to Beatrice, "and you have provided me with what I can assure you is almost pathetically scarce in these days--a new and very dramatic idea. Take a seat, won't you, and chat with us a little longer? Tell us how you came to think of all this? I have always held that the workings of a criminologist's brain must be one of the most interesting studies in life."

Mr. Dane smiled enigmatically.

"Ah!" he protested, "you mustn't ask me to disclose all my secrets."

"You wouldn't care to tell us a little about your future intentions?" Philip enquired.

Mr. Dane shook his head.

"It is very kind of you, Mr. Merton Ware," he confessed, "to let me down so gently. We all make mistakes, of course. As to my future intentions, well, I am not quite sure about them. You see, this isn't really my job at all. It isn't up to me to hunt out English criminals, so long as they behave themselves in this city. If an extradition order or anything of that sort came my way, it would, of course, be different."

"Why not lay this interesting theory of yours before the authorities at Scotland Yard?" Philip suggested. "I am sure they would listen with immense interest to any report from you."

"That's some idea, certainly," the detective admitted, taking up his hat from the table. "For the present I'll wish you both good morning--or shall I say an revoir?"

"We may look for the pleasure of another visit from you, then?" Philip enquired politely.

The detective faced them from the doorway.

"Sir," he said to Philip, "I admire your nerve, and I admire the nerve of your old sweetheart, Miss Wenderley. I am afraid I cannot promise you, however, that this will be my last visit."

The door closed behind him. They heard the shrill summons of the bell, the arrival of the lift, the clanging of the iron gate, and its subsequent descent. Then Beatrice turned her head. Philip was still smoking serenely, standing with his back to the mantelpiece, his hands in his pockets. She rose and threw her arms around him.

"Philip!" she cried. "Why, you are wonderful! You are marvellous! You make me ashamed. It was only for a moment that I lost my nerve, and you saved us. Oh, what idiots we were! Of course he meant to watch--that's why he told me he was going to Chicago. The beast!"

"He seems to have got hold of the idea all right, doesn't he?" Philip muttered.

"Pooh!" she exclaimed encouragingly. "I know a little about the law--so do you. He hasn't any proof--he never can have any proof. No one will ever be able to swear that the body which they picked out of the canal was the body of Douglas Romilly. There wasn't a soul who saw you do it. I am the only person in the world who could supply the motive, and I--I shall never be any use to them. Don't you see, Philip?... I shall be your wife! A wife can't give evidence against her husband! You'll be safe, dear--quite safe."

He withdrew a little from her embrace.

"Beatrice," he reminded her, "there is another tragedy beyond the one with which Dane threatens us. I do not wish to marry you."

She suddenly blazed up.

"Because--?"

"Not because of any reason in the world," he interrupted, "except that I love Elizabeth Dalstan."

"Does she want to marry you?"

He was suddenly an altered person. Some of his confidence seemed to desert him. He shook his head doubtfully.

"I am not sure. Sometimes I think that she would. Sometimes I fancy that it is only a great kindness of heart, an immense sympathy, a kind of protective sympathy, which has made her so good to me."

She looked at herself steadily for a moment in the mirror. Then she pulled down her veil.

"Philip," she said, "we find out the truth when we are up against things like this. I used to think I could live alone. I can't. Whatever you may think of me, I was fond of Douglas. It wasn't only for the sake of the money and the comfort. He was kind, and in his way he understood. And then, you know, misery didn't agree with you. You were often, even in those few hours we spent together, very hard and cold. Anyway," she added, with a little tightening of the lips, "I am going to get my money now. No one can stop that. You stay here and think it over. It would be better to marry me, Philip, and be safe, than to have the fear of that man Dane always before you. And wait--wait till you see me when I come back!" she went on, her spirits rapidly rising as she moved towards the door. "You'll change your mind then, Philip. You were always so impressionable, weren't you? A little touch of colour, the perfume of flowers, a single soft word spoken at the right moment--anything that took your fancy made such a difference. Well--just wait till I come back!"

She closed the door. Philip heard her descend in the lift. He moved to the window and watched for her on the pavement. She appeared there in a moment or two and waited whilst the boy whistled for a taxicab, her face expectantly upraised, one hand resting lightly on her bosom, just over the spot where her pocketbook lay.

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The Cinema Murder - Book 3 - Chapter 16
BOOK III CHAPTER XVIPhilip was still gazing into vacancy and smoking cigarettes when Elizabeth arrived. She seemed conscious at once of the disturbed atmosphere. His hands, which she held firmly in hers, were as cold as ice. "Is that girl going to be troublesome?" she demanded anxiously. "Not in the way we feared," he replied. "All the same, the plot has thickened so far as I am concerned. That fellow Dane has been here." "Go on," she begged. "He laid a trap for us, and we fell into it like the veriest simpletons. He let Beatrice think that he had gone
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BOOK III CHAPTER XIVThe close of the performance left them both curiously tongue-tied. They waited until the theatre was half empty before they left their seats. Then they joined the little throng of stragglers at the end. "Your play!" she murmured, as they faced the soft night air. "I can't believe it, even now. We've seen it together--your play--and this is New York! That's a new ending, isn't it?" "Absolutely," he confessed. "The ending was always what bothered me, you know." She laughed, not quite naturally. She was unexpectedly impressed. "So you're a genius, after all," she went on. "Sometimes I
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