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   Chapter 3 No.3

The Cinema Murder By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 11259

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The sun was shining into his bedroom when Philip Romilly was awakened the next morning by a discreet tapping at the door. He sat up in bed and shouted "Come in." He had no occasion to hesitate for a moment. He knew perfectly well where he was, he remembered exactly everything that had happened. The knocking at the door was disquieting but he faced it without a tremor. The floor waiter appeared and bowed deferentially.

"There is a gentleman on the telephone wishes to speak to you, sir," he announced. "I have connected him with the instrument by your side."

"To speak with me?" Philip repeated. "Are you quite sure?"

"Yes, sir. Mr. Douglas Romilly he asked for. He said that his name was

Mr. Gayes, I believe."

The man left the room and Philip took up the receiver. For a moment he sat and thought. The situation was perplexing, in a sense ominous, yet it had to be faced. He held the instrument to his ear.

"Hullo? Who's that?" he enquired.

"That Mr. Romilly?" was the reply, in a man's pleasant voice. "Mr.

Douglas Romilly?"

"Yes!"

"Good! I'm Gayes-Mr. Gayes of Gayes Brothers. My people wrote me last night from Leicester that you would be here this morning. You are crossing, aren't you, on the Elletania?"

Philip remained monosyllabic.

"Yes," he admitted cautiously.

"Can't you come round and see us this morning?" Mr. Gayes invited. "And look here, Mr. Romilly, in any case I want you to lunch with me at the club. My car shall come round and fetch you at any time you say."

"Sorry," Philip replied. "I am very busy this morning, and I am engaged for lunch."

"Oh, come, that's too bad," the other protested, "I really want to have a chat with you on business matters, Mr. Romilly. Will you spare me half an hour if I come round?"

"Tell me exactly what it is you want?" Philip insisted.

"Oh! just the usual thing," was the cheerful answer. "We hear you are off to America on a buying tour. Our last advices don't indicate a very easy market over there. I am not at all sure that we couldn't do better for you here, and give you better terms."

Philip began to feel more sure of himself. The situation, after all, he realized, was not exactly alarming.

"Very kind of you," he said. "My arrangements are all made now, though, and I can't interfere with them."

"Well, I'm going to bother you with a few quotations, anyway. See here, I'll just run round to see you. My car is waiting at the door now. I won't keep you more than a few minutes."

"Don't come before twelve," Philip begged. "I shall be busy until then."

"At twelve o'clock precisely, then," was the reply. "I shall hope to induce you to change your mind about luncheon. It's quite a long time since we had you at the club. Good-by!"

Philip set down the telephone. He was still in his pajamas and the morning was cold, but he suddenly felt a great drop of perspiration on his forehead. It was the sort of thing, this, which he had expected-had been prepared for, in fact-but it was none the less, in its way, gruesome. There was a further knock at the door, and the waiter reappeared.

"Can I bring you any breakfast, sir?" he enquired.

"What time is it?"

"Half-past nine, sir."

"Bring me some coffee and rolls and butter," Philip ordered.

He sprang out of bed, bathed, dressed, and ate his breakfast. Then he lit a cigarette, repacked his dressing-case, and descended into the hall. He made his way to the hall porter's enquiry office.

"I am going to pay some calls in the city," he announced-"Mr. Romilly is my name-and I may not be able to get back here before my boat sails. I am going on the Elletania. Can I have my luggage sent there direct?"

"By all means, sir."

"Every article is properly labelled," Philip continued. "Those in my bedroom-number sixty-seven-are for the cabin, and those you have in your charge are for the hold."

"That will be quite all right, sir," the man assured him pocketing his liberal tip. "I will see to the matter myself."

Philip paid his bill at the office and breathed a little more freely as he left the hotel. Passing a large, plate-glass window he stopped suddenly and stared at his own reflection. There was something unfamiliar in the hang of his well-cut clothes and fashionable Homburg hat. It was like the shadow of some one else passing-some one to whom those clothes belonged. Then he remembered, remembered with a cold shiver which blanched his cheeks and brought a little agonised murmur to his lips. The moment passed, however, crushed down, stifled as he had sworn that he would stifle all such memories. He turned in at a barber's shop, had his hair cut, and yielded to the solicitations of a fluffy-haired young lady who was dying to go to America if only somebody would take her, and who was sure that he ought to have a manicure before his voyage. Afterwards he entered a call office and rang up the hotel on the telephone.

"Mr. Romilly speaking," he announced. "Will you kindly tell Mr. Gayes, if he calls to see me, that I have been detained in the city, and shall not be back."

The man took down the message. Philip strolled out once more into the streets, wandering aimlessly about for an hour or more. By this time it was nearly one o'clock, and, selecting a restaurant, he entered and ordered luncheon. Once more it came over him, as he looked around the place, that he had, after all, only a very imperfect hold upon his own identity. It seemed impossible that he, Philip Romilly, should be there, ordering precisely what appealed to him most, without thought or care of the cost. He ate and drank

slowly and with discrimination, and when he left the place he felt stronger. He sought out a first-class tobacconist's, bought some cigarettes, and enquired his way to the dock. At a few minutes after two, he passed up the gangway and boarded the great steamer. One of the little army of linen-coated stewards enquired the number of his room and conducted him below.

"Anything I can do for you, sir, before your luggage comes on?" the man asked civilly.

Philip shook his head and wandered up on deck again, where there were already a fair number of passengers in evidence. He leaned over the side, watching the constant stream of porters bearing supplies, and the steerage passengers passing into the forepart of the ship. With every moment his impatience grew. He looked at his watch sometimes half a dozen times in ten minutes, changed his position continually, started violently whenever he heard an unexpected footstep behind him. Finally he broke a promise he had made to himself. He bought newspapers, took them into a sheltered corner, and tore them open. Column by column he searched them through feverishly, running his finger down one side and up the next. It seemed impossible to find nowhere the heading he dreaded to see, to realize that they were entirely empty of any exciting incident. He satisfied himself at last, however. The disappearance of a half-starved art teacher had not yet blazoned out to a sympathetic world. It was so much to the good…. There was a touch upon his shoulder, and he felt a chill of horror. When he turned around, it was the steward who had conducted him below, holding out a telegram.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he said. "Telegram just arrived for you."

He passed on almost at once, in search of some one else. Philip stood for several moments perfectly still. He looked at the inscription-Douglas Romilly-set his teeth and tore open the envelope:

Understood you were returning to factory before leaving. Am posting a few final particulars to Waldorf Hotel, New York. Staff joins me in wishing you bon voyage.

Philip felt his heart cease its pounding, felt an immense sense of relief. It was a wonderful thing, this message. It cleared up one point on which he had been anxious and unsettled. It was taken for granted at the Works, then, that he had come straight to Liverpool. He walked up and down the deck on the side remote from the dock, driving this into his mind.

Everything was wonderfully simplified. If only he could get across, once reach New York! Meanwhile, he looked at his watch again and discovered that it wanted but ten minutes to three. He made his way back down to his stateroom, which was already filled with his luggage. He shook out an ulster from a bundle of wraps, and selected a tweed cap. Already there was a faint touch of the sea in the river breeze, and he was impatient for the immeasurable open spaces, the salt wind, the rise and fall of the great ship. Then, as he stood on the threshold of his cabin, he heard voices.

"Down in number 110, eh?"

"Yes, sir," he heard his steward's voice reply. "Mr. Romilly has just gone down. You've only a minute, sir, before the last call for passengers."

"That's all right," the voice which had spoken to him over the telephone that morning replied. "I'd just like to shake hands with him and wish him bon voyage."

Philip's teeth came together in a little fury of anger. It was maddening, this, to be trapped when only a few minutes remained between him and safety! His brain worked swiftly. He took his chance of finding the next stateroom empty, as it happened to be, and stepped quickly inside. He kept his back to the door until the footsteps had passed. He heard the knock at his stateroom, stepped back into the corridor, and passed along a little gangway to the other side of the ship. He hurried up the stairs and into the smoking-room. The bugle was sounding now, and hoarse voices were shouting:

"Every one for the shore! Last call for the shore!"

"Give me a brandy and soda," he begged the steward, who was just opening the bar.

The man glanced at the clock and obeyed. Philip swallowed half of it at a gulp, then sat down with the tumbler in his hand. All of a sudden something disappeared from in front of one of the portholes. His heart gave a little jump. They were moving! He sprang up and hurried to the doorway. Slowly but unmistakably they were gliding away from the dock. Already a lengthening line of people were waving their handkerchiefs and shouting farewells. Around them in the river little tugs were screaming, and the ropes from the dock had been thrown loose. Philip stepped to the rail, his heart growing lighter at every moment. His ubiquitous steward, laden with hand luggage, paused for a moment.

"I sent a gentleman down to your stateroom just before the steamer started, sir," he announced, "gentleman of the name of Gayes, who wanted to say good-by to you."

"Bad luck!" Philip answered. "I must have just missed him."

The steward turned around and pointed to the quay.

"There he is, sir-elderly gentleman in a grey suit, and a bunch of violets in his buttonhole. He's looking straight at you."

Philip raised his cap and waved it with enthusiasm. After a moment's hesitation, the other man did the same. The steward collected his belongings and shuffled off.

"He picked you out, sir, all right," he remarked as he disappeared in the companionway.

Philip turned away with a little final wave of the hand.

"Glad I didn't miss him altogether," he observed cheerfully.

"Good-afternoon, Mr. Gayes! Good-by, England!"

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