Larry Holt sat before the Cafe de la Paix, watching the stream of life flow east and west along the Boulevard des ltaliens. The breath of spring was in the air; the trees were bursting into buds of vivid...
Larry Holt sat before the Cafe de la Paix, watching the stream of life
flow east and west along the Boulevard des ltaliens. The breath of spring
was in the air; the trees were bursting into buds of vivid green; the
cloud-flecked skies were blue; and a flood of golden sunshine brought out
the colours of the kiosks, and gave an artistic value even to the flaring
advertisements. Crowded motor-buses rumbled by, little taxis dashed
wildly in and out of the traffic, to the mortal peril of unsuspecting
A gendarme, with cloak over his shoulder, stood in a conventional
attitude on the kerb, his hand behind him, staring at nothing, and along
the sidewalk there were hurrying bareheaded girls, slow-moving old men,
and marching poilus. Itinerant vendors of wares loafed past the tables of
the cafe, dusky-faced Arabs with their carpets on their arms,
seedy-looking men who hawked bundles of picture post cards and would
produce, at the slightest encouragement, cards which were not for the
public gaze. All these things and people were a delight to Larry Holt,
who had just returned from Berlin after four years' strenuous work in
France and Germany, and felt in that holiday spirit to which even the
mind of a detective will ascend.
The position occupied by Larry Holt was something of a mystery to the
officials of Scotland Yard. His rank was Inspector, his work was the
administrative work of a Commissioner; and it was generally understood
that he was in the line for the first vacant assistant commissionership
that came along. The question of his rank, of his prospects, did not
trouble Larry at that particular moment. He sat there, absorbing the
sweetness of spring with every breath he drew. His good-looking face was
lit up with the sheer joy of living, and there was in his heart a relief,
a sense of rest, which he had not experienced for many a long day.
He revealed himself a fairly tall man when he rose, after paying the
waiter, and strolled round the corner to his hotel. It was a slow
progress he made, his hands in his pockets, his soft felt hat at the back
of his head, a half-smile on his parted lips as he gripped a long black
cigarette holder between his white teeth.
He came into the busy vestibule of the hotel, the one spot in Paris where
people hustle and rush, where bell-boys really run, and even the
phlegmatic Briton seems in a frantic hurry, and he was walking towards
the elevator when, through the glass door leading to the palm court, he
saw a man in an attitude of elegant repose, leaning back in a big chair
and puffing at a cigar.
Larry grinned and hesitated. He knew this lean-faced man, so radiantly
attired, his fingers and cravat flashing with diamonds, and in a spirit
of mischief he passed through the swing doors and came up to the lounger.
"If it isn't my dear old friend Fred!" he said softly.
Flash Fred, Continental crook and gambler, leapt to his feet with a look
of alarm at the sight of this unexpected visitation.
"Hullo, Mr Holt!" he stammered. "You're the last person in the world I
expected to see--"