Authors: Leslie Charteris
scanned and proofed by jakath
The Saint had
MONEY TO BURN
Back in England after bedeviling the police of three continents, the irrepressible Robin Hood of modern crime was on a buying spree which left harried Chief Inspector Teal in a daze.
Before he had finished, the Saint owned:
A lurid novel with the apt title, “Her Wedding Secret”
A dilapidated hansom cab
A dozen packages of cough lozenges
A brand-new, single pilot airplane
Each purchase was an investment in audacious adventure. Never were the stakes higher, the villains more vile, nor the damsels more willing!
“The longest-lived, the most versatile, the most durable and most admired sleuth in modern detective fiction.”
Original title: THE MISFORTUNES OF MR. TEAL
Complete and Unabridged
AVON PUBLICATIONS, INC.
575 Madison Avenue—New York 22, N.Y.
TOOTS and JOANNE,
who have been helping for years
Copyright, 1934, by Leslie Charteris. Published by arrangement with Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Printed in Canada
The Simon Templar Foundation
The Higher Finance
The Art of Alibi
THE SIMON TEMPLAR FOUNDATION
There was nothing unusual about the fact that when Simon Templar landed in England he was expecting trouble. Trouble was his chosen vocation : the last ten years of his life had held enough of it to satisfy a couple of dozen ordinary men for three or four lifetimes, and it would have been surprising if after so many hectic events he had contemplated a future of rustic quietude, enlivened by nothing more thrilling than wild gambles on the laying abilities of Leghorns. But it was perhaps more unusual that the particular trouble which he was expecting on this occasion could not be blamed on any fault of his.
He came down the gangway of the Transylvania with a light step in the summer sunlight, with a soft grey hat canted rakishly over one eye and a raincoat slung carelessly over his shoulder. There was death in his pocket and peril of an even deadlier kind under his arm; but he faced the customs officer across his well-labelled luggage with an easy smile and ran a humorous glance down the list of dutiable and prohibited articles presented for his inspection.
“Yes,” he said, “I’m carrying large quantities of silk, perfume, wines, spirits, tobacco, cut flowers, watches, embroidery, eggs, typewriters, and ex-| plosives. I also have some opium and a couple of howitzers––”
“You don’t have to be funny about it, anyway,” grunted the official and scrawled the cryptic hieroglyphics that passed him through with his two guns into England.
He sauntered on through the bleak echoing shed, waving casual adieus to his acquaintances of the voyage. An American banker from Ohio, who had lost three thousand dollars to him over the poker table, buttonholed him without malice.
“See you look me up next time you’re in Wapa- koneta,” he said.
“I won’t forget,” Simon answered gravely.
There was a girl with raven hair and deep grey eyes. She was very good to look upon, and Simon had sat out with her on the boat deck under the moon.
“Perhaps you’ll be coming to Sacramento one day,” she said.
“Maybe I will,” he said with a quick smile; and the deep grey eyes followed him rather wistfully out of sight.
Other eyes followed the tall lean figure as it swung by, and carried their own pictures of the brown fighting face and the smile that touched the strong reckless mouth and the gay blue eyes. They belonged to a Miss Gertrude Tinwiddle, who had been seasick all the way over, and who would never have been taken onto the boat deck anyhow. “Who is that man?” she asked. “His name is Templar,” said her neighbour, who knew everything. “And you mark my words, there’s something queer about him. I shouldn’t be surprised if he was a sort of gangster.”
“He looks like a—a sort of cavalier,” said Miss Tinwiddle timidly.
“Pish!” said her companion testily and returned to the grim task of trying to convince a cynical customs officer that twenty-four silk dresses would have been a beggarly allowance even for a week-end traveller.
At the end of the shed Detective Sergeant Harry Jepson, of the Southampton C. I. D., said to Police Constable Ernest Potts:
“You see the tall fellow in the grey tweeds coming this way? Handsome devil, isn’t he? Well, you’d better remember that face.”
“Who is he?” asked Police Constable Potts. “That,” said Sergeant Jepson, “is Mr. Simon Templar, alias the Saint; and you aren’t likely to see a smarter crook than him in your time. At least, I hope not. He’s committed every blooming crime there is from murder downwards, and he’ll tell you so himself, but nobody’s ever been able to hang a thing on him. And to look at him you’d think he had a conscience like a new-born babe.”
In which utterance Detective Sergeant Harry Jepson was as close to eternal truth as he was ever likely to get; for the Saint had never been sure that he had a conscience at all, but if he had one there was certainly nothing on it. He looked the two officers shamelessly in the eye as he ap-proached, and as he strolled past them his right hand waved a quizzical salute that had no regard whatever for the affronted majesty of the Law.
“D’you ever hear of such blooming sauce?” demanded Mr. Jepson indignantly.
But Simon Templar, who was called the Saint, neither heard nor cared. He stood on the railroad platform, tapping a cigarette on a thin platinum case, and panned a thoughtful and quietly vigilant eye along the whole length of the train. He was expecting somebody to meet him, but he knew that it would not be anyone whose welcome would be friendly; and he had the additional disadvantage of not even being able to guess what the welcomer might look like. The Saint’s vocation was trouble, but he had contrived to stay alive for thirty-two] years only because of an unceasing devotion to the business of divining where the trouble would come from and meeting it on his toes.
“Wantcher luggidge in the van, sir?” asked the porter who was wheeling his barrow.
The Saint’s gaze travelled round to measure up two suitcases and a wardrobe trunk.
“I think so, George,” he murmured. “I shouldn’t be able to run very far with that load, should I?”
He took over his small overnight bag and saw the rest of his impedimenta registered through to his apartment on Piccadilly. He was still carrying the black book under his arm, and it occurred to him that there were more convenient forms of camouflage for it than the slung raincoat by which it was temporarily hidden. He paused at the bookstall and glanced over the volumes of fiction offered for the entertainment of the traveller. In the circumstances, his choice had to be dictated by size rather than subject matter.
“I’ll take this,” he said brazenly; and the assistant’s eyes bulged slightly as he paid over three half-crowns for a copy of an opus entitled Her Wedding Secret.
A signpost adjoining the bookstall invited Gentlemen to enter and make themselves at home, and the Saint drifted through with his purchase. No other Gentlemen were availing themselves of the Southern Railway’s hospitality at the time, and it was the work of a moment to slip the intriguing jacket from the volume he had just bought and transfer it to the black book from under his arm, where it fitted quite comfortably. He pitched the unknown lady’s wedding secret dexterously through the skylight and went out again with the newly jacketed black book conspicuously flaunted in his hand—no one who had been watching him would have had any reason to suspect that there had been any change in the contents of that artistically suggestive wrapper.
There were several minutes left before the train was due to leave, and the Saint strolled unhurriedly along the platform with his bag, as though selecting a carriage. If the welcomer or welcomers that he expected were there, he wanted to help them in every possible way. He covered the whole length of the train before he turned back, and then made his choice of an empty smoker. Pushing his suitcase up onto the rack, and dumping his raincoat and book on a corner seat, he leaned out of the window and slid another idly thoughtful glance over the scene.
A military-looking man of about forty-five, with a strongly aquiline nose and a black guardee moustache, came slowly down the platform. He passed the window without looking round, walked on a little way, and turned. He stood there for a while, teetering toe to heel and gazing vacantly over the gallery of posters plastered on the opposite wall; then he came back, past the Saint’s window again, circumnavigated a farewell party congre- gated outside the next carriage, and did the same thing on the other side.
The Saint’s cool blue eyes never once looked directly at him; his brown keen-cut face never changed its expression from one of languid pa- tience; but he had seen every movement of the military-looking man’s manoeuvres. And Simon Templar knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that this was at least one of the welcomers whom he had been expecting.
Along the train came a bustle of belated activity, the banging of doors, the scream of the guard’s whistle. Simon remained in his window, finishing his cigarette, and saw the military-looking man climb into an adjoining compartment. The engine let out a hiss of steam, and the platform began to slip back under his eyes.
Simon dropped his cigarette and settled back into his corner. He turned the pages of the black book in its new wrapper, refreshing his memory. The action was more automatic than deliberate, only different in degree from a nervous person’s gesture in twiddling his thumbs while waiting on tenterhooks for some anticipated event to happen. The Saint already knew almost every line of that amazing volume by heart—he had had plenty of time to study it from cover to cover on the voyage over. The odds were about fifty to one that the military-looking man was mentioned somewhere in its pages; but it was rather difficult to decide, out of the available names, which one he was most likely to bear.
The conductor came round and collected tickets; and then fifteen minutes passed before the door of the Saint’s compartment slid back again. Simon closed his book and looked up with exactly the conventional nuance of irritated curiosity which darkens the distinguished features of the railroad passenger who has contrived to secure a compartment to himself and who finds his privary illegitimately invaded at the last moment; but the military-looking man put his back to the door and stared at him with a grimness that was by no means conventional.
“Come on,” he said grimly. Give me that book!”
“What, this?” said the Saint in innocent surprise, raising Her Wedding Secret. “You’re welcome to it when I’ve finished, brother, but I hardly think it’s in your line. I’ve only got to the part where she discovers that the man she has married is a Barbarian Lover–—”
The intruder pushed the unoffending volume roughly aside.
“I don’t mean that,” he said shortly. “You know perfectly well what book I mean.”
“I’m afraid I don’t,” said the Saint.
“And you know perfectly well,” continued the intruder, “what I’m going to do to you if I don’t get it.”
Simon shook his head.
“I can’t guess that one, either,” he remarked mildly. “What is it—slap my wrist and tell me to stand in the corner?”
The man’s mouth was working under his moustache. He came further into the compartment, past the Saint, and jerked a small automatic from his pocket. It was an almost pathetically amateurish movement—Simon could have forestalled it easily, but he wanted to see how far the other would go.
“Very well,” grated the man. “I’ll have to take it myself. Put ‘em up!”
“Up what?” asked the Saint, doing his best to understand.
“Put your hands up. And don’t think of any more of that funny stuff, or you’ll be sorry for it.”
Simon put his hands up lazily. His bag was on the rack directly over his head, and the handle was within an inch of his fingers.
“I suppose the keepers will be along to collect you in a minute, old fruit,” he drawled. “Or do you fancy yourself as a sort of highwayman?”
“Now listen, you bastard,” came the snarling answer. “I’m going to allow you five seconds to give me that book. If I haven’t got it in that time, I’m going to shoot. I’ll start counting now. One … two …”
There was a crazy red glare in the intruder’s eyes, and although the gun was shaking unsteadily something told Simon that he had permitted the melodrama to go far enough.
“You know all the rules, don’t you, brother?” he said gently; and his fingers grasped the handle of his bag and hurled it full into the other’s face.
The man reeled back with the force of the impact and went crashing against the outside door. It flew open under his weight; and the Saint’s blue eyes turned to sudden ice as he realized that it could not have been properly latched when he got in. For one awful instant the man’s fingers clawed at the frame; and then with a choking gasp he was gone, and there was only the drab streaked wall of the cutting roaring by the door… .
Simon’s hand reached up instinctively towards the communication cord. And then it drew back.
The intruder, whoever he was, had asked for it: he had taken his own chances. And although Simon Templar had only done what was justified in self-defense, he knew his own reputation at Scotland Yard too well to believe for a moment that it would be a brief and simple task to impress that fact upon the suspicious hostility of the C. I. D. To stop the train would achieve nothing more helpful than his own immediate arrest; and of all the things which might happen to him while he had that black book in his possession, an inter= lude behind bars in Brixton Prison was the ieast exhilarating.
He caught the swinging door and closed it again and then restored his suitcase to the rack. The un- known casualty’s gun had gone out with him— there was no other evidence that he had ever entered the compartment.
The Saint lighted a cigarette and sat down again, listening to the rhythmic thrum and rattle of the wheels pounding over the metals towards London. There was nothing unusual about the fact that he was expecting trouble when he returned to Europe, or even about the fact that a fair sample of that trouble should have greeted him within such a short time of setting foot in England.