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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Pawns Count - Chapter XXXVI
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The Pawns Count - Chapter XXXVI Post by :jdmml Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :April 2012 Read :795

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The Pawns Count - Chapter XXXVI

Fischer, on leaving his unsuccessful dinner party, drove direct to the residence of Mr. Max H. Bookam, in Fifth Avenue. The butler who admitted him looked a little blank at his inquiry.

"Mr. Bookam was expected home yesterday, sir," he announced. "He has not arrived, however."

"Has there been any telegram from him?--any news as to the cause of his non-return?" Fischer persisted.

"I believe that Mr. Kaye, his secretary, has some information, sir," the man admitted. "Perhaps you would like to see him."

Fischer did not hesitate, and was conducted at once to the study in which Mr. Bookam was wont to indulge in various nefarious Stock Exchange adventures. The room was occupied on this occasion by a dejected-looking young man, with pasty face and gold spectacles. The apartment, as Fischer was quick to notice, showed signs of a strange disorder.

"Where's Mr. Bookam?" he asked quickly.

The young man walked to the door, shook it to be sure that it was closed, and came back again. His tone was ominous, almost dramatic.

"In the State Prison at----, sir," he announced.

"What for?" Fischer demanded, breathing a little thickly.

"I have no certain information," the secretary replied, with a noncommittal air. "All I know is that I had a long-distance telephone to burn certain documents, but before I could do so the room and the house were searched by New York detectives, whose warrant it was useless to resist."

"But what's the charge against Mr. Bookam?"

"It's something to do with the disasters in----," the young man confided. "The Governor of the State, who is Mr. Bookam's cousin, is in the same trouble.... Better sit down a moment, sir. You're looking white."

Mr. Fischer threw himself into an easy-chair. He felt like a man who has built a mighty piece of machinery, has set it swinging through space, and watches now its imminent collapse; watches some tiny but ghastly flaw, pregnant with disaster, growing wider and wider before his eyes.

"What papers did the police take away with them?" he asked.

"There wasn't very much for them," the secretary replied. "There was a list of the names of the proposed organisation which, owing to your very wise intervention, was never formed. There was a list of factories throughout the United States in which munitions are being made, with a black mark against those holding the most important contracts. And there was a letter from Governor Roughton."

"Mr. Bookam hasn't drawn any cheques lately for large amounts?" Fischer inquired eagerly.

"There are three in his private cheque-book, sir, the counterfoils of which are not filled in," was the somewhat dreary admission.

Fischer groaned as he received the news.

"Have you any idea about those cheques?" he demanded.

"I am afraid," the other acknowledged, "that Mr. Bookam was not very discreet. I reminded him of your advice--that the money should be passed through Sullivan--but he didn't seem to think it worth while."

"Look here, let me know the worst at once," Fischer insisted. "Do you believe that any one of those cheques was made payable to any of the men who are under arrest?"

"I am afraid," the secretary declared sadly, "that the proceeds of one were found on the person of Ed. Swindles, intact."

Fischer sat for a moment with his head buried in his hands. "That any man could have been such a fool. An organisation would have been a thousand times safer. Max Bookam was only a very worthy and industrious clothing manufacturer, with an intense love for the Fatherland and a great veneration for all her institutions. What he had done, he had done whole-heartedly but foolishly. He was a man who should never have been trusted for a moment in the game. After all, the pawns count...."

Fischer took his leave and reached his hotel a little before midnight. Already he had begun to look over his shoulder in the street. He found his rooms empty with a sense of relief, marred by one little disappointment. Nikasti was to have been there to bid him farewell-- Nikasti on his way back to Japan. He ascertained from the office of the hotel that there had been no telephone message or caller. Then he turned to his correspondence, some presentiment already clutching at his strained nerves. There was a letter in a large envelope, near the bottom of the pile, addressed to him in Nikasti's fine handwriting. He tore open the envelope, and slow horror seized him as he realised its contents. A long photograph unrolled itself before his eyes. The first few words brought confusion and horror to his sense. His brain reeled. This was defeat, indeed! It was a photograph of that other autograph letter. The one which he had given to Nikasti to carry to Japan lay-- gross sacrilege!--about him in small pieces. There was no other line, no message, nothing but this damning proof of his duplicity.

A kind of mental torture seized him. He fought like a caged man for some way out. Every sort of explanation occurred to him only to be rejected, every sort of subterfuge, only to be cast aside with a kind of ghastly contempt. He felt suddenly stripped bare. His tongue could serve him no more. He snatched at the telephone receiver and rang up the number for which he searched eagerly through the book.

"Is that the office of the American Steamship Company?" he asked.


"What time will the _New York sail?"

"In three-quarters of an hour. Who's speaking?"

"Mr. Oscar Fischer. Keep anything you have for me."

He threw down the receiver for fear of a refusal, packed a few things feverishly in a dressing bag, dashed the rest of his correspondence into his pocket, and with the bag in one hand, and an overcoat over the other arm, he hastened out into the street. He was obliged at first to board a street car. Afterwards he found a taxicab, and drove under the great wooden shed as the last siren was blowing. He hurried up the gangway, a grim, remorseful figure, a sense of defeat gnawing at his heart, a bitter, haunting fear still with him even when, with a shriek of the tugs, the great steamer swung into the river. He was leaving forever the work to which he had given so much of his life, leaving it a fugitive and dishonoured. The blaze of lights, the screaming of the great ferry-boats, all the triumphant, brazen noises of the mighty city, sounded like a requiem to him as in the darkest part of the promenade deck he leaned over the railing and nursed his agony, the supreme agony of an ambitious man--failure.

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The Pawns Count - Chapter XXXVII The Pawns Count - Chapter XXXVII

The Pawns Count - Chapter XXXVII
"What has become," Mrs. Theodore Hastings asked her niece one afternoon about a month later, "of your delightful friend, Mr. Lutchester?"Pamela laid down her book and looked across at her aunt with wide-open eyes."Why, I thought you didn't like him, aunt?""I cannot remember saying so, my dear," Mrs. Hastings replied. "I had nothing against the man himself. It was simply his attitude with regard to some of your uncle's plans, of which we disapproved."Pamela nodded. They were seated on the piazza of the Hastings' country house at Manchester."I see!... And uncle's plans," she went on reflectively, "have become a little changed,

The Pawns Count - Chapter XXXV The Pawns Count - Chapter XXXV

The Pawns Count - Chapter XXXV
Mr. Oscar Fischer and his friend, Senator Theodore Hastings, stood side by side, a week later, in the bar of one of the most fashionable of New York hotels. They were passing away the few minutes before Pamela and her aunt would be ready to join them in the dining room above."Very little news, I fancy," Hastings remarked, glancing at the tape which was passing through his companion's fingers."Nothing--of any importance," Fischer replied. "Nothing."The older man glanced searchingly at his companion, the change in whose tone was ominous. Fischer was standing with the tape in his hand, his eyes glued upon