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The Face in the Night
     

The Face in the Night

by Edgar Wallace
 

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THE MAN FROM THE SOUTH

THE fog, which was later to descend upon London, blotting out every
landmark, was as yet a grey, misty threat. The light had gone from the
sky, and the street-lamps made a blurred showing when the man from the
South came unsteadily into Portman Square. In spite of the raw cold he
wore no overcoat; his shirt was open at

Overview

THE MAN FROM THE SOUTH

THE fog, which was later to descend upon London, blotting out every
landmark, was as yet a grey, misty threat. The light had gone from the
sky, and the street-lamps made a blurred showing when the man from the
South came unsteadily into Portman Square. In spite of the raw cold he
wore no overcoat; his shirt was open at his throat. He walked along,
peering up at the doors, and presently he stopped before No. 551 and made
a survey of the darkened windows. The corner of his scarred mouth lifted
in a sardonic smile.

Strong drink magnifies all dominant emotions. The genial man grows more
fond of his fellows, the quarrelsome more bitter. But in the man who
harbours a sober grievance, booze brings the red haze that enshrouds
murder. And Laker had both the grievance and the medium of magnification.

He would teach this old devil that he couldn't rob men without a
come-back. The dirty skinflint who lived on the risk which his betters
were taking. Here was Laker, almost penniless, with a long and painful
voyage behind him, and the memory of the close call that had come in Cape
Town, when his room had been searched by the police. A dog's life--that
was what he was living. Why should old Malpas, who had not so long to
exist, anyway, live in luxury whilst his best agent roughed it? Laker
always felt like this when he was drunk.

He was hardly the type that might be expected to walk boldly up to the
front door of 551 Portman Square. His long, unshaven face, the old knife
wound that ran diagonally from cheek to point of chin, the low forehead,
covered with a ragged fringe of hair, taken in conjunction with his
outfit, suggested abject poverty.

He stood for a moment, looking down at his awkward-looking boots, and
then, mounting the steps, he tapped slowly at the door. Instantly a voice
asked: "Who is that?"

"Laker--that's who!" he said loudly.

A little pause, and the door opened noiselessly and he passed through.
There was nobody to receive him, nor did he expect to see a servant.
Crossing the bare hall, he walked up the stairs, through an open door and
a small lobby into a darkened room. The only light was from a
green-shaded lamp on the writing-table, at which an old man sat. Laker
stood just inside the room and heard the door close behind him. "Sit
down," said the man at the far end of the room. The visitor had no need
for guidance: he knew exactly where the chair and table were, three paces
from where he stood, and without a word he seated himself. Again that
grin of his twisted his face, but his repulsive-looking host could not
see this. "When did you come?"

"I came in the Buluwayo. We docked this morning," said Laker. "I want
some money, and I want it quick, Malpas!"

"Put down what you have brought, on the table," said the old man harshly.
"Return in a quarter of an hour and the money will be waiting for you."

"I want it now," said the other with drunken obstinacy. Malpas turned his
hideous face towards the visitor. "There's only one method in this shop,"
he said gratingly, "and that's mine! Leave it or take it away. You're
drunk, Laker, and when you're drunk you're a fool."

"Maybe I am. But I'm not such a fool that I'm going to take the risks
I've been taking any more! And you're taking some too, Malpas. You don't
know who's living next door to you."

He remembered this item of information, discovered by accident that very
morning.

The man he called Malpas drew his padded dressing-gown a little closer
around his shoulders, and chuckled.

"I don't know, eh? Don't know that Lacy Marshalt is living next door? Why
do you think I'm living here, you fool, if it is not to be next to him?"

The drunkard stared open-mouthed. "Next to him . . . what for? He's one
of the men you're robbing--he's a crook, but you're robbing him! What do
you want to get next to him for?"

"That's my business," said the other curtly. "Leave the stuff and go."

"Leave nothing," said Laker, and rose awkwardly to his feet. "And I'm not
leaving this place either, till I know all about you, Malpas. I've been
thinking things out. You're not what you look. You don't sit at one end
of this dark room and keep the likes of me at the other end for nothing.
I'm going to have a good look at you, son. And don't move. You can't see
the gun in my hand, but you've got my word it's there!"

Product Details

BN ID:
2940013755710
Publisher:
WDS Publishing
Publication date:
01/11/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
277 KB

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