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   Chapter 9 No.9

The Cinema Murder By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 13647

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

After a fortnight of his new life, Philip took stock of himself and his belongings. In the first place, then, he owned a new name, taken bodily from certain documents which he had brought with him from England. Further, as Mr. Merton Ware, he was the monthly tenant of a small but not uncomfortable suite of rooms on the top story of a residential hotel in the purlieus of Broadway. He had also, apparently, been a collector of newspapers of certain dates, all of which contained some such paragraph as this:



Early on Monday morning, the police of the city were invited to investigate a case of curious disappearance. Mr. Douglas Romilly, an English shoe manufacturer, who travelled out from England on board the Elletania, arrived at the Waldorf Hotel at four o'clock on Saturday afternoon and was shown to the reservation made for him. Within an hour he was enquired for by several callers, who were shown to his room without result. The apartment was found to be empty and nothing has since been seen or heard of Mr. Romilly. The room assigned to him, which could only have been occupied for a few minutes, has been locked up and the keys handed to the police. A considerable amount of luggage is in their possession, and certain documents of a somewhat curious character. From cables received early this afternoon, it would appear that the Douglas Romilly Shoe Company, one of the oldest established firms in England, is in financial difficulties.

Then there was a paragraph in a paper of later date:


The police have been unable to discover any trace of the missing Englishman. From further cables to hand, it appears that he was in possession of a considerable sum of money, which must have been on his person at the time of disappearance, and it is alleged that there was also a large amount, with which he had intended to make purchases for his business, standing to his credit at a New York bank. Nothing has since been discovered, however, amongst his belongings, of the slightest financial value, nor does any bank in New York admit holding a credit on behalf of the missing man.

"Perhaps it is time," Philip murmured, "that these were destroyed."

He tore the newspapers into pieces and threw them into his waste-basket. On his writing-table were forty or fifty closely written pages of manuscript. In his pocketbook were sixteen hundred dollars, and a document indicating a credit for a very much larger amount at the United Bank of New York, in favor of Merton Ware and another. The remainder of his belongings were negligible. He stood at the window and looked out across the city, the city into whose labyrinths he was so eager to penetrate-the undiscovered country. By day and night its voices were in his ears, the rattle and roar of the overhead railway, the clanging of the street cars, the heavy traffic, the fainter but never ceasing foot-fall of the multitudes. He had sat there before dawn and watched the queer, pinky-white light steal with ever widening fingers through the darkness, heard the yawn of the city as it seemed to shiver and tremble before the battle of the day. At twilight he had watched the lights spring up one by one, at first like pin pricks in the distance, growing and widening until the grotesque shapes of the buildings from which they sprung had faded into nothingness, and there was left only a velvet curtain of strangely-lit stars. At a giddy distance below he could trace the blaze of Broadway, the blue lights flashing from the electric wires as the cable cars rushed back and forth, the red and violet glimmer of the sky signs. He knew it all so well, by morning, by noon and night; in rainstorm, storms which he had watched come up from oceanwards in drifting clouds of vapour; and in sunshine, clear, brilliant sunshine, a little hard and austere, to his way of thinking, and unseasonable.

"A week," he muttered. "She said a week. Tonight I will go out."

He looked at himself in the glass. He wore no longer the well-cut clothes of Mr. Douglas Romilly's Saville Row tailor, but a ready-made suit of Schmitt & Mayer's business reach-me-downs, an American felt hat and square-toed shoes.

"She said a week," he repeated. "It's a fortnight to-day. I'll go to the restaurant at the corner. I must find out for myself what all this noise means, what the city has to say."

He turned towards the door and then stopped short. For almost the first time since he had taken up his quarters here, the lift had stopped outside. There was a brief pause, then his bell rang. For a moment Philip hesitated. Then he stepped forward and opened the door, looking out enquiringly at his caller.

"You Mr. Merton Ware?"

He admitted the fact briefly. His visitor was a young woman dressed in a rather shabby black indoor dress, over which she wore an apron. She was without either hat or gloves. Her fingers were stained with purple copying ink, and her dark hair was untidily arranged.

"I live two stories down below," she announced, handing him a little card. "Miss Martha Grimes-that's my name-typewriter and stenographer, you see. The waiter who brings our meals told me he thought you were some way literary, so I just stepped up to show you my prospectus. If you've any typewriting you want doing, I'm on the spot, and I don't know as you'd get it done much cheaper anywhere else-or better."

There was nothing particularly ingratiating about Miss Martha Grimes, but, with the exception of a coloured waiter, she happened to be the first human being with whom Philip had exchanged a word for several days. He felt disinclined to hurry her away.

"Come in," he invited, holding the door open. "So you do typing, eh? What sort of a machine do you use?"

"Remington," she answered. "It's a bit knocked about-a few of the letters, I mean-but I've got some violet ink and I can make a manuscript look all right. Half a dollar a thousand words, and a quarter for carbon copies. Of course, if you'd got a lot of stuff," she went on, her eyes lighting hopefully upon the little collection of manuscript upon his table, "I might quote you a trifle less."

He picked up some of his sheets and glanced at them.

"Sooner or later," he admitted, "I shall have to have this typed. It isn't quite ready yet, though."

He was struck by the curious little light of anticipation which somehow changed her face, and which passed away at his last words. Under pretence of gathering together some of those loose pages, he examined her more closely and

realised that he had done her at first scant justice. She was very thin, and the expression of her face was spoilt by the discontented curve of her lips. The shape of her head, however, was good. Her dark hair, notwithstanding its temporary disarrangement, was of beautiful quality, and her eyes, though dull and spiritless-looking, were large and full of subtle promise. He replaced the sheets of manuscript.

"Sit down for a moment," he begged.

"I'd rather stand," she replied.

"Just as you please," he assented, smiling. "I was just wondering what to do about this stuff."

She hesitated for a moment, then a little sulkily she seated herself.

"I suppose you think I'm a pretty forward young person to come up here and beg for work. I don't care if you do," she went on, swinging her foot back and forth. "One has to live."

"I am very pleased that you came," he assured her. "It will be a great convenience to me to have my typing done on the premises, and although I am afraid there won't be much of it, you shall certainly do what there is."

"Story writer?" she enquired.

"I am only a beginner," he told her. "This work I am going to give you is a play."

She looked at him with a shade of commiseration in her face.

"Sickening job, ain't it, writing for the stage unless you've got some sort of pull?"

"This is my first effort," he explained.

"Well, it's none of my business," she said gloomily. "All I want is the typing of it, only you should see some of the truck I've had! I've hated to send in the bill. Waste of good time and paper! I don't suppose yours is like that, but there ain't much written that's any good, anyway."

"You're a hopeful young person, aren't you?" he remarked, taking a cigarette from the mantelpiece and lighting it. "Have one?"

"No, thank you!" she replied, rising briskly to her feet. "I'm not that sort that sits about and smokes cigarettes with strange young men. If you'll let me know when that work's going to be ready, I'll send the janitor up for it."

He smiled deprecatingly.

"You're not afraid of me, by any chance, are you?" he asked.

Her eyes glowed with contempt as she looked him up and down.

"Afraid of you, sir!" she repeated. "I should say not! I've met all sorts of men and I know something about them."

"Then sit down again, please," he begged.

She hesitated for a moment, then subsided once more unwillingly into the chair.

"Don't know as I want to stay up here gossiping," she remarked. "You'd much better be getting on with your work. Give me one of those cigarettes, anyway," she added abruptly.

"Do you live in the building?" he enquired, as he obeyed her behest.

"Two flats below with pop," she replied. "He's a bad actor, very seldom in work, and he drinks. There are just the two of us. Now you know as much as is good for you. You're English, ain't you?"

"I am," Philip admitted.

"Just out, too, by the way you talk."

"I have been living in Jamaica," he told her, "for many years-clerk in an office there."

"Better have stayed where you were, I should think, if you've come here hoping to make a living by that sort of stuff."

"Perhaps you're right," he agreed, "but you see I am here-been here a week or two, in fact."

"Done much visiting around?" she enquired.

"I've scarcely been out," he confessed. "You see, I don't know the city except from my windows. It's wonderful from here after twilight."

"Think so," she replied dully. "It's a hard, hammering, brazen sort of place when you're living in it from hand to mouth. Not but what we don't get along all right," she added, a little defiantly. "I'm not grumbling."

"I am sure you're not," he assented soothingly. "Tell me-to-night I am a little tired of work. I thought of going out. Be a Good Samaritan and tell me where to find a restaurant in Broadway, somewhere where crowds of people go but not what they call a fashionable place. I want to get some dinner-I haven't had anything decent to eat for I don't know how long-and I want to breathe the same atmosphere as other people."

She looked at him a little enviously.

"How much do you want to spend?" she asked bluntly.

"I don't know that that really matters very much. I have some money.

Things are more expensive over here, aren't they?"

"I should go to the New Martin House," she advised him, "right at the corner of this block. It's real swell, and they say the food's wonderful."

"I could go as I am, I suppose?" he asked, glancing down at his clothes.

She stared at him wonderingly.

"Say, where did you come from?" she exclaimed. "You ain't supposed to dress yourself out in glad clothes for a Broadway restaurant, not even the best of them."

"Have you been to this place yourself?" he enquired.


"Come with me," he invited suddenly.

She arose at once to her feet and threw the remains of her cigarette into the grate.

"Say, Mr. Ware," she pronounced, "I ain't that sort, and the sooner you know it the better, especially if I'm going to do your work. I'll be going."

"Look here," he remonstrated earnestly, "you don't seem to understand me altogether. What do you mean by saying you're not that sort?"

"You know well enough," she answered defiantly. "I guess you're not proposing to give me a supper out of charity, are you?"

"I am asking you to accompany me," he declared, "because I haven't spoken to a human being for a week, because I don't know a soul in New York, because I've got enough money to pay for two dinners, and because I am fiendishly lonely."

She looked at him and it was obvious that she was more than half convinced. Her brightening expression transformed her face. She was still hesitating, but her inclinations were apparent.

"Say, you mean that straight?" she asked. "You won't turn around afterwards and expect a lot of soft sawder because you've bought me a meal?"

"Don't be a silly little fool," he answered good-humouredly. "All I want from you is to sit by my side and talk, and tell me what to order."

Her face suddenly fell.

"No good," she sighed. "Haven't got any clothes."

"If I am going like this," he expostulated, "why can't you go as you are?

Take your apron off. You'll be all right."

"There's my black hat with the ribbon," she reminded herself. "It's no style, and Stella said yesterday she wouldn't be seen in a dime show in it."

"Never you mind about Stella," he insisted confidently. "You clap it on your head and come along."

She swung towards the door.

"Meet you in the hall in ten minutes," she promised. "Can't be any quicker. This is your trouble, you know. I didn't invite myself."

Philip opened the door, a civility which seemed to somewhat embarrass her.

"I shall be waiting for you," he declared cheerfully.

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