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   Chapter 21 ASSASSINATION!

Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 8628

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Selingman, a large cigar between his lips and a happy smile upon his face, stood in the square before the Casino, watching the pigeons. He had just enjoyed an excellent lunch, he was exceedingly pleased with a new light grey suit which he was wearing, and his one unsatisfied desire was for companionship. Draconmeyer was away motoring with Lady Hunterleys, Mr. Grex was spending the early part of the day in conclave with their visitor from France, and Mademoiselle Nipon had gone to Nice for the day. Selingman had been left to his own devices and was beginning to find time hang upon his hands. Conversation and companionship were almost as great necessities with him as wine. He beamed upon the pigeons and looked around at the people dotted about in chairs outside the Café de Paris, hoping to find an acquaintance. It chanced, however, that he saw nothing but strangers. Then his eyes fell upon a man who was seated with folded arms a short distance away, a man of respectable but somewhat gloomy appearance, dressed in dark clothes, with pale cheeks and cavernous eyes. Selingman strolled towards him.

"How go things, friend Allen?" he enquired, dropping his voice a little.

The man glanced uneasily around. There was, however, no one in his immediate vicinity.

"Badly," he admitted.

"Still no success, eh?" Selingman asked, drawing up a chair and seating himself.

"The man is secretive by nature," was the gloomy reply. "One would imagine that he knew he was being watched. Everything which he receives in the way of a written communication is at once torn up. He is the most difficult order of person to deal with-he is methodical. He has only the hotel valet to look after his things but everything is always in its place. Yesterday I went through his waste-paper basket. I took home the contents but the pieces were no larger than sixpences. I was able to put together one envelope which he received yesterday morning, which was franked 'On His Majesty's Service,' and the post-mark of which was Downing Street."

Selingman shook his head ponderously and then replied seriously:

"You must do better than that, my Sherlock Holmes-much better."

"I can't make bricks without straw," Allen retorted sullenly.

"There is always straw if one looks in the right place," Selingman insisted, puffing away at his cigar. "What we want to discover is, exactly how much does Hunterleys know of certain operations of ours which are going on here? He is on the watch-that I am sure of. There is one known agent in the place, and another suspected one, and I am pretty certain that they are both working at his instigation. What we want to get hold of is one of his letters to London."

"I have been in and out of his rooms at all hours," the other said. "I have gone into the matter thoroughly, so thoroughly that I have taken a situation with a firm of English tailors here, and I am supposed to go out and tout for orders. That gives me a free entrée to the hotel. I have even had a commission from Sir Henry himself. He gave me a coat to get some buttons sewn on. I am practically free of his room but what's the good? He doesn't even lead the Monte Carlo life. He doesn't give one a chance of getting at him through a third person. No notes from ladies, no flower or jewelry bills, not the shadow of an assignation. The only photograph upon his table is a photograph of Lady Hunterleys."

"Better not tell our friend Draconmeyer that," Selingman observed, smiling to himself. "Well, well, you can do nothing but persevere, Allen. We are not niggardly masters. If a man fails through no fault of his own, well, we don't throw him into the street. Nothing parsimonious about us. No need for you to sit about with a face as long as a fiddle because you can't succeed all at once. We are the people to kick at it, not you. Drink a little more wine, my friend. Give yourself a liqueur after luncheon. Stick a cigar in your mouth and go and sit in the sunshine. Make friends with some of the ladies. Remember, the sun will still shine and the music play in fifty years' time, but not for you. Come and see me when you want some more money."

"You are very kind, sir," the man replied. "I am going across to the hotel now. Sir Henry has been about there most of the morning but he has just

gone in to Ciro's to lunch, so I shall have at least half-an-hour."

"Good luck to you!" Selingman exclaimed heartily. "Who knows but that the big things may come, even this afternoon? Cheer up, and try and make yourself believe that a letter may be lying on the table, a letter he forgot to post, or one sent round from the bank since he left. I am hopeful for you this afternoon, Allen. I believe you are going to do well. Come up and see me afterwards, if you will. I am going to my hotel to lie down for half-an-hour. I am not really tired but I have no friend here to talk with or anything to do, and it is a wise economy of the human frame. To-night, mademoiselle will have returned. Just now every one has deserted me. I will rest until six o'clock. Au revoir, friend Allen! Au revoir!"

Selingman climbed the hill and entered the hotel where he was staying. He mounted to his room, took off his coat, at which he glanced admiringly for a moment and then hung up behind the door. Finally he pulled down the blinds and lay down to rest. Very soon he was asleep....

The drowsy afternoon wore on. Through the open windows came the sound of carriages driven along the dusty way, the shouts of the coachmen to their horses, the jingling of bells, the hooting of motor horns. A lime tree, whose leaves were stirred by the languorous breeze, kept tapping against the window. From a further distance came the faint, muffled voices of promenaders, and the echo of the guns from the Tir du Pigeons. But through it all, Selingman, lying on his back and snoring loudly, slept. He was awakened at last by the feeling that some one had entered the room. He sat up and blinked.

"Hullo!" he exclaimed.

A man in the weird disguise of a motor-cyclist was standing at the foot of the bed. Selingman continued to blink. He was not wholly awake and his visitor's appearance was unpleasant.

"Who the devil are you?" he enquired.

The visitor took off his disfiguring spectacles.

"Jean Coulois-behold!" was the soft reply.

Selingman raised himself and slid off the bed. It had seemed rather like a dream. He was wide-awake now, however.

"What do you want?" he asked. "What are you here for?"

Jean Coulois said nothing. Then very slowly from the inside pocket of his coat he drew a newspaper parcel. It was long and narrow, and in places there was a stain upon the paper. Selingman stared at it and stared back at Jean Coulois.

"What the mischief have you got there?" he demanded.

Coulois touched the parcel with his yellow forefinger. Selingman saw then that the stains were of blood.

"Give me a towel," his visitor directed. "I do not want this upon my clothes."

Selingman took a towel from the stand and threw it across the room.

"You mean," he asked, dropping his voice a little, "that it is finished?"

"A quarter of an hour ago," Jean Coulois answered triumphantly. "He had just come in from luncheon and was sitting at his writing-table. It was cleverly done-wonderfully. It was all over in a moment-not a cry. You came to the right place, indeed! And now I go to the country," Coulois continued. "I have a motor-bicycle outside. I make my way up into the hills to bury this little memento. There is a farmhouse up in the mountains, a lonely spot enough, and a girl there who says what I tell her. It may be as well to be able to say that I have been there for déjeuner. These little things, monsieur-ah, well! we who understand think of them. And since I am here," he added, holding out his hand-

Selingman nodded and took out his pocket-book. He counted out the notes in silence and passed them over. The assassin dropped them into his pocket.

"Au revoir, Monsieur le Gros!" he exclaimed, waving his hand. "We meet to-night, I trust. I will show you a new dance-the Dance of Death, I shall call it. I seem calm, but I am on fire with excitement. To-night I shall dance as though quicksilver were in my feet. You must not miss it. You must come, monsieur."

He closed the door behind him and swaggered off down the passage. Selingman stood, for a moment, perfectly still. It was a strange thing, but two big tears were in his eyes. Then he heaved a great sigh and shook his head.

"It is part of the game," he said softly to himself, "all part of the game."

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