MoboReader> Literature > The Cinema Murder

   Chapter 11 No.11

The Cinema Murder By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 9901

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


A few nights later Philip awoke suddenly to find himself in a cold sweat, face to face with all the horrors of an excited imagination. Once more he felt his hand greedy for the soft flesh of the man he hated, tearing its way through the stiff collar, felt the demoniacal strength shooting down his arm, the fever at his finger tips. He saw the terrified face of his victim, a strong man but impotent in his grasp; heard the splash of the turgid waters; saw himself, his lust for vengeance unsatisfied, peering downwards through the dim and murky gloom. It was not only a physical nightmare which seized him. His brain, too, was his accuser. He saw with a hideous clarity that even the excuse of motive was denied him. It was a sense of personal loss which had driven him out on to that canal path, a murderer at heart. It was something of which he had been robbed, an acute and burning desire for vengeance, personal, entirely egotistical. It was not the wrong to the woman which he resented, had there been any wrong. It was the agony of his own personal misery. He rose from his bed and stamped up and down his little chamber in a fear which was almost hysterical. He threw wide open the windows, heedless of a driving snowstorm. The subdued murmur of the city, with its paling lights, brought him no relief. He longed frantically for some one who knew the truth, for Elizabeth before any one, with her soft, cool touch, her gentle, protective sympathy. He was a fool to think he could live alone like this, with such a burden to bear! Perhaps it would not be for long. The risks were many. At any moment he might hear the lift stop, steps across the corridor, the ring at his bell, the plainly-clad, businesslike man outside, with his formal questions, his grim civility. He fumbled about in his little dressing-case until he came to a small box containing several white pills. He gripped them in his hand and looked around, listening. No, it was fancy! There was still no sound in the building. When at last he went back to bed, however, the little box was tightly clenched in his hands.

In the morning he went through his usual programme. He arose soon after eight, lighted his little spirit lamp, made his coffee, cut some bread and butter, and breakfasted. Then he lit a cigarette and sat down at his desk. His imagination, however, seemed to have burnt itself out in the night. Ideas and phrases were denied to him. He was thankful, about eleven o'clock, to hear a ring at the bell and find Martha Grimes outside with a little parcel under her arm. She was wearing the same shabby black dress and her fingers were stained with copying ink. Her almost too luxuriant hair was ill-arranged and untidy. Even her eyes seemed to have lost their lustre.

"I've finished," she announced, handing him the parcel. "Better look and see whether it's all right. I can't do it up properly till I've had the whole."

He cut the string and looked at a few of the sheets. The typing was perfect. He began to express his approval but she interrupted him.

"It's better stuff than I expected," she declared grudgingly. "I thought you were only one of these miserable amateurs. Where did you learn to write like that?"

Somehow, her praise was like a tonic.

"Do you like it?" he asked eagerly.

"Oh! my likes or dislikes don't matter," she replied. "It's good stuff. You'll find the account in there. If you'd like to pay me, I'd like to have the money."

He glanced at the neat little bill and took out his pocketbook.

"Sit down for a minute," he begged. "I'm stuck this morning-can't write a line. Take my easy-chair and smoke a cigarette-I have nothing else to offer you."

For a moment she seemed about to refuse. Then she flung herself into his easy-chair, took a cigarette, and, holding it between her lips, almost scarlet against the pallor of her cheeks, stretched upwards towards the match which he was holding.

"Stella and her boy were over to see me last night," she announced, a little abruptly.

"The young lady with the ermines," he murmured.

"And her boy, Felix Martin. It was through him they came-I could see that all right. He was trying all the time to pump me about you."

"About me?"

"Oh! you needn't trouble to look surprised," she remarked. "I guess you remember the bee he had in his bonnet that night."

"Mistook me for some one, didn't he?" Philip murmured.

She nodded.

"Kind of queer you don't read our newspapers! It was a guy named Romilly-Douglas Romilly-who disappeared from the Waldorf Hotel. Strange thing about it," she went on, "is that I saw photographs of him in the newspapers, and I can't recognise even a likeness."

"This Mr. Felix Martin doesn't agree with you, apparently," Philip observed.

"He don't go by the photographs," Martha Grimes explained. "He believes that he crossed from Liverpool with this Mr. Douglas Romilly, and that you," she continued, crossing her le

gs and smoothing down her skirt to hide her shabby shoes, "are so much like him that he came down last night to see if there was anything else he could find out from me before he paid a visit to police headquarters."

There was a moment's silence. Philip was apparently groping for a match, and the girl was keeping her head studiously turned away from him.

"What business is it of his?"

"There was a reward offered. Don't know as that would make much difference to Felix Martin, though. According to Stella's account, he is pretty well a millionaire already."

"It would be more useful to you, wouldn't it?" Philip remarked.

"Five hundred dollars!" Martha sighed. "Don't seem to me just now that there's much in the world you couldn't buy with five hundred dollars."

"Well, what did you tell Mr. Felix Martin?"

"Oh, I lied, sure! He'd found out the date you came into your rooms here-the day this man Romilly disappeared-but I told him that I'd known you and done work for you before then-long enough before the Elletania ever reached New York. That kind of stumped him."

"Why did you do that?" Philip demanded.

"Dunno," the girl replied, with a shrug of the shoulders. "Just a fancy.

I guessed you wouldn't want him poking around."

"But supposing I had been Douglas Romilly, you might at least have divided the reward," he reminded her.

"There's money and money," Martha declared. "We spoke of that the other day. Stella's got money-now. Well, she's welcome. My time will come, I suppose, but if I can't have clean money, I haven't made up my mind yet whether I wouldn't rather try the Hudson on a foggy morning."

"Well, I am not Douglas Romilly, anyway," Philip announced.

She looked up at him almost for the first time since her entrance.

"I kind of thought you were," she admitted. "I might have saved my lies, then."

He shook his head.

"You have probably saved me from more than you know of," he replied. "I am not Douglas Romilly, but-"

"You're not Merton Ware, either," she interrupted.

"Quite right," he agreed. "I started life as Philip Merton Ware the day I took these rooms, and if the time should come," he went on, "that any one seriously set about the task of finding out exactly who I was before I was Merton Ware, you and I might as well take that little journey-was it to the Hudson, you said, on a foggy morning?-together."

They sat in complete silence for several moments, Then she threw the end of her cigarette into the fire.

"Well, I'm glad I didn't lie for nothing," she declared. "I didn't quite tumble to the Douglas Romilly stunt, though. They say he has left his business bankrupt in England and brought a fortune out here. You don't look as though you were overdone with it."

"I certainly haven't the fortune that Douglas Romilly is supposed to have got away with," he said quietly. "I have enough money for my present needs, though-enough, by-the-by, to pay you for this typing," he added, counting out the money upon the table.

"Any more stuff ready?"

"With luck there'll be some this afternoon," he promised her. "I had a bad night last night, but I think I'll be able to work later in the day."

She looked at him curiously, at his face, absolutely devoid of colour, his eyes, restless and overbright, his long, twitching fingers.

"Bad conscience or drugs?" she asked.

"Bad conscience," he acknowledged. "I've been where you have been-Miss

Grimes. I looked over the edge and I jumped. I'd stay where you are, if

I were you."

"Maybe I shall, maybe I shan't," she replied doggedly. "Stella wants to bring a boy around to see me. 'You bring him,' I said. 'I'll talk to him.' Then she got a little confused. Stella's kind, in her way. She came back after Mr. Martin had gone down the passage. 'See here, kid,' she said, 'you know as well as I do I can't bring any one round to see you while you are sitting around in those rags. Let me lend you-' Well, I stopped her short at that. 'My own plumes or none at all,' I told her, 'and I'd just as soon he didn't come, anyway.'"

"You're a queer girl," Philip exclaimed. "Where's your father to-day?"

"Usual place," she answered,-"in bed. He never gets up till five."

"Let me order lunch up here for both of us, from the restaurant," he suggested.

She shook her head.

"No, thanks!"

"Why not?" he persisted.

"I'm going round to the office to see if I can get any extra work."

"But you've got to lunch some time," he persisted.

She laughed a little hardly.

"Have I? We girls haven't got to eat like you men. I'll call up towards the evening and see if you've anything ready for me."

She was gone before he could stop her. He turned back to his desk and seated himself. The sight of his last finished sentence presented itself suddenly in a new light. There was a suggestiveness about it which was almost poignant. He took up his pen and began to write rapidly.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares