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   Chapter 12 No.12

The Cinema Murder By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 9007

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


It was a few minutes after six that evening when Philip was conscious of a knock at his door. He swung around in his chair, blinking a little.

"Come in!"

Martha Grimes entered. She was in outdoor apparel, that is to say she wore her hat and a long mackintosh. She remained standing upon the threshold.

"Just looked up to see if you've got any more work ready," she explained.

He sprang to his feet and stood there, for a moment, unsteadily.

"Come in and shut the door," he ordered. "Look! Look!" he added, pointing to his table. "Thirty-three sheets! I've been working all the time. I've been living, I tell you, living God knows where!-not in this accursed little world. Here, let's pick up the sheets. There's enough work for you."

She looked at him curiously.

"Have you been in that chair ever since?" she asked.

"Ever since," he assented enthusiastically.

"Any lunch?"

"Not a scrap. Never thought about it."

"You'll make yourself sick, that's what you'll do," she declared. "Go out and get something at once."

"Never even thought about lunch," he repeated, half to himself. "Where have you been?"

"Some luck," she replied. "First place I dropped in at. Found there was a girl gone home for the day, fainted. Lots of work to do, so they just stuck me down in her chair. Three dollars they gave me. The girl's coming back to-morrow, though, worse luck."

"When did you have your lunch?"

"Haven't had any. I'm going to make myself a cup of tea now."

He reached for his hat.

"Not on your life" he exclaimed. "Come along, Miss Martha Grimes. I have written lines-you just wait till you type them! I tell you it's what I have had at the back of my head for months. It's there now on paper-living, flaring words. Come along."

"Where to?"

"We are going to eat," he insisted. "I am faint, and so are you. We are going to that same place, and we'll have lunch and dinner in one."

"Nothing doing," she snapped. "You'll see some more people who recognise you."

He waved his hand contemptuously.

"Who cares! If you don't come along with me, I'll go up town to the

Waldorf or the Ritz Carlton. I'll waste my money and advertise myself.

Come along-that same little quiet corner. I don't suppose your friends

will be there again."

"Stella won't," she admitted doubtfully. "She's going to Sherry's. I'd just as soon be out," she went on ruminatingly. "Shouldn't be surprised if she didn't bring that guy in, after all."

He had already rung the bell of the lift.

"Look at me!" she exclaimed ironically. "Nice sort of an object I am to take out! Got a raincoat on-though it's dry enough-because my coat's gone at the seams."

"If you don't stop talking like that," he declared, "I'll march into one of those great stores and order everything a woman wants to wear. Look at me. Did you ever see such clothes!"

"A man's different," she protested. "Besides, you've got a way with you of looking as though you could wear better clothes if you wanted to-something superior. I don't like it. I should like you better if you were common."

"You're going to like me better," he assured her, "because we are going to have a cocktail together within the next three minutes. Look at you-pale as you can stick. I bet you haven't had a mouthful of food all day. Neither have I, except a slice of bread and butter with my tea this morning. We're a nice sort of couple to talk about clothes. What we want is food."

She swayed for a moment and pretended that she tripped. He caught her arm and steadied her. She jerked it from him.

"Have your own way," she yielded.

They reached the corner of the street, plunged into the surging crowds of Broadway, passed into the huge restaurant, were once more pounced upon by a businesslike but slightly patronizing ma?tre d'h?tel, and escorted to a remote table in a sort of annex of the room. Philip pushed the menu away.

"Two cocktails-the quickest you ever mixed in your life," he ordered.

"Quicker than that, mind."

The man was back again almost at once with two frosted glasses upon a tray. They laughed together almost like children as they set them down empty.

"I know what I want, and you, too, by the look of you," he continued-"a beefsteak, with some more of that green corn you gave me the other day, and fried potatoes, and Burgundy. We'll have some oysters first while we wait."

She sighed.

"I don't mean to come here with you again," she said, a little impatiently.

"I don't know why I give in to you. You're not strong, you know. You are a weak man. Women will always look after you; they'll always help you in trouble-I suppose they'll always care for you. Can't think why I do what you want me to. Guess I was near starving."

He laughed.

"You don't know much about me yet," he reminded her.

"You don't know much about yourself," she retorted glibly. "Why, according to your own confession, you only started life a few weeks ago. I fancy what went before didn't count for much. You've been fretted and tied up somewhere. You haven't had the chance of getting big like so many of our American men. What are you going to do with this play of yours?"

"Miss Elizabeth Dalstan has promised to produce it," he told her.

She looked at him in some surprise.

"Elizabeth Dalstan?" she repeated. "Why, she's one of our best actresses."

"I understood so," he replied. "She has heard the story-in fact I wrote out one of the scenes with her. She is going to produce it as soon as it's finished."

"Well, all you poor idiots who write things have some fine tale to tell their typewriter," she remarked. "You seem as though you mean it, though. Where did you meet Elizabeth Dalstan?"

"I came over with her on the Elletania," he answered thoughtlessly.

She gave a little start. Then she turned upon him almost in anger.

"Well, of all the simpletons!" she exclaimed. "So that's the way you give yourself away, is it? Just here from Jamaica, eh! Nothing to do with Douglas Romilly! Never heard of the Elletania, did you! I'd like to see you on the grid at police headquarters for five minutes, with one of our men asking you a few friendly questions! You'd look well, you would! You ought to go about with a nurse!"

Philip had all the appearance of a guilty child.

"You see," he explained penitently, "I am new to this sort of thing.

However, you know now."

"Still ready to swear that you're not Douglas Romilly, I suppose?"

"On my honour I am not," he replied.

"Kind of funny that you should have been on the steamer, after all," she jeered.

"Perhaps so, but I am not Douglas Romilly," he persisted.

She was silent for a moment, then she shrugged her shoulders.

"What do I care who your are?" she said. "Here, help me off with this raincoat, please. It's warm in here, thank goodness!"

He looked at her as she sat by his side in her plain black dress, and was impressed for the first time with a certain unsuspected grace of outline, which made him for the moment oblivious of the shabbiness of her gown.

"You have rather a nice figure," he told her with a sudden impulse of ingenuousness.

She turned upon him almost furiously. Something in his expression, however, seemed to disarm her. She closed her lips again.

"You are nothing but a child!" she declared. "You don't mean anything.

I'd be a fool to be angry with you."

The waiter brought their steak. Philip was conscious of something in his companion's eyes which almost horrified him. It was just that gleam of hungry desire which has starvation for its background.

"Don't let's talk," he pleaded. "There isn't any conversation in the world as good as this."

The waiter served them and withdrew, casting a curious glance behind. They were, from his point of view, a strange couple, for, cosmopolitan though the restaurant was, money was plentiful in the neighbourhood, and clients as shabby as these two seldom presented themselves. He pointed them out to a ma?tre d'h?tel, who in his turn whispered a few words concerning them to a dark, lantern-jawed man, with keen eyes and a hard mouth, who was dining by himself. The latter glanced at them and nodded.

"Thank you, Charles," he said, "I've had my eye on them. The girl's a pauper, daughter of that old fool Grimes, the actor. Does a little typewriting-precious little, I should think, from the look of her. The man's interesting. Don't talk about them. Understand?"

The ma?tre d'h?tel bowed.

"I understand, Inspector. Not much any one can tell you, sir."

"Pays his bill in American money, I suppose?" the diner asked.

"I'll ascertain for you, Mr. Dane," Charles replied. "I believe he is an

Englishman."

"Name of Merton Ware," the inspector agreed, nodding, "just arrived from

Jamaica. Writes some sort of stuff which the girl with him typewrites.

That's his story. He's probably as harmless as a baby."

Charles bowed and moved away. His smile was inscrutable.

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