The Clue of the Twisted Candle

by Edgar Wallace

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Chapter XIX

One would not readily associate the party of top-booted sewermen who descend nightly to the subterranean passages of London with the stout viceconsul at Durazzo. Yet it was one unimaginative man who lived in Lambeth and had no knowledge that there was such a place as Durazzo who was responsible for bringing this comfortable official out of his bed in the early hours of the morning causing him - albeit reluctantly and with violent and insubordinate language - to conduct certain investigations in the crowded bazaars.

At first he was unsuccessful because there were many Hussein Effendis in Durazzo. He sent an invitation to the American Consul to come over to tiffin and help him.

"Why the dickens the Foreign Office should suddenly be interested in Hussein Effendi, I cannot for the life of me understand."

"The Foreign Department has to be interested in something, you know," said the genial American. "I receive some of the quaintest requests from Washington; I rather fancy they only wire you to find if they are there."

"Why are you doing this!"

"I've seen Hakaat Bey," said the English official. "I wonder what this fellow has been doing? There is probably a wigging for me in the offing."

At about the same time the sewerman in the bosom of his own family was taking loud and noisy sips from a big mug of tea.

"Don't you be surprised," he said to his admiring better half, "if I have to go up to the Old Bailey to give evidence."

"Lord! Joe!" she said with interest, "what has happened!"

The sewer man filled his pipe and told the story with a wealth of rambling detail. He gave particulars of the hour he had descended the Victoria Street shaft, of what Bill Morgan had said to him as they were going down, of what he had said to Harry Carter as they splashed along the low-roofed tunnel, of how he had a funny feeling that he was going to make a discovery, and so on and so forth until he reached his long delayed climax.

T. X. waited up very late that night and at twelve o'clock his patience was rewarded, for the Foreign Office' messenger brought a telegram to him. It was addressed to the Chief Secretary and ran:

"No. 847. Yours 63952 of yesterday's date. Begins. Hussein Effendi a prosperous merchant of this city left for Italy to place his daughter in convent Marie Theressa, Florence Hussein being Christian. He goes on to Paris. Apply Ralli Theokritis et Cie., Rue de 1'Opera. Ends."

Half an hour later T. X. had a telephone connection through to Paris and was instructing the British police agent in that city. He received a further telephone report from Paris the next morning and one which gave him infinite satisfaction. Very slowly but surely he was gathering together the pieces of this baffling mystery and was fitting them together. Hussein Effendi would probably supply the last missing segments.

At eight o'clock that night the door opened and the man who represented T. X. in Paris came in carrying a travelling ulster on his arm. T. X. gave him a nod and then, as the newcomer stood with the door open, obviously waiting for somebody to follow him, he said,

"Show him in - I will see him alone."

There walked into his office, a tall man wearing a frock coat and a red fez. He was a man from fifty-five to sixty, powerfully built, with a grave dark face and a thin fringe of white beard. He salaamed as he entered.

"You speak French, I believe," said T. X. presently.

The other bowed.

"My agent has explained to you," said T. X. in French, "that I desire some information for the purpose of clearing up a crime which has been committed in this country. I have given you my assurance, if that assurance was necessary, that you would come to no harm as a result of anything you might tell me."

"That I understand, Effendi," said the tall Turk; "the Americans and the English have always been good friends of mine and I have been frequently in London. Therefore, I shall be very pleased to be of any help to you."

T. X. walked to a closed bookcase on one side of the room, unlocked it, took out an object wrapped in white tissue paper. He laid this on the table, the Turk watching the proceedings with an impassive face. Very slowly the Commissioner unrolled the little bundle and revealed at last a long, slim knife, rusted and stained, with a hilt, which in its untarnished days had evidently been of chased silver. He lifted the dagger from the table and handed it to the Turk.

"This is yours, I believe," he said softly.

The man turned it over, stepping nearer the table that he might secure the advantage of a better light. He examined the blade near the hilt and handed the weapon back to T. X.

"That is my knife," he said.

T. X. smiled.

"You understand, of course, that I saw 'Hussein Effendi of Durazzo' inscribed in Arabic near the hilt."

The Turk inclined his head.

"With this weapon," T. X. went on, speaking with slow emphasis, "a murder was committed in this town."

There was no sign of interest or astonishment, or indeed of any emotion whatever.

"It is the will of God," he said calmly; "these things happen even in a great city like London."

"It was your knife," suggested T. X.

"But my hand was in Durazzo, Effendi," said the Turk.

He looked at the knife again.

"So the Black Roman is dead, Effendi."

"The Black Roman" asked T. X., a little puzzled.

"The Greek they call Kara," said the Turk; "he was a very wicked man."

T. X. was up on his feet now, leaning across the table and looking at the other with narrowed eyes.

"How did you know it was Karat" he asked quickly.

The Turk shrugged his shoulders.

"Who else could it be?" he said; "are not your ne newspapers filled with the story?"

T. X. sat back again, disappointed and a little an with himself.

"That is true, Hussein Effendi, but I did not think you read the papers."

"Neither do I, master," replied the other coolly, "nor did I know that Kara had been killed until I saw this knife. How came this in your possession!"

"It was found in a rain sewer," said T. X., "into which the murderer had apparently dropped it. But if you have not read the newspapers, Effendi, then you admit that you know who committed this murder."

The Turk raised his hands slowly to a level with his shoulders.

"Though I am a Christian," he said, "there are many wise sayings of my father's religion which I remember. And one of these, Effendi, was, 'the wicked must die in the habitations of the just, by the weapons of the worthy shall the wicked perish.' Your Excellency, I am a worthy man, for never have I done a dishonest thing in my life. I have traded fairly with Greeks, with Italians, have with Frenchmen and with Englishmen, also with Jews. I have never sought to rob them nor to hurt them. If I have killed men, God knows it was not because I desired their death, but because their lives were dangerous to me and to mine. Ask the blade all your questions and see what answer it gives. Until it speaks I am as dumb as the blade, for it is also written that 'the soldier is the servant of his sword,' and also, 'the wise servant is dumb about his master's affairs.' "

T. X. laughed helplessly.

"I had hoped that you might be able to help me, hoped and feared," he said; "if you cannot speak it is not my business to force you either by threat or by act. I am grateful to you for having come over, although the visit has been rather fruitless so far as I am concerned."

He smiled again and offered his hand.

"Excellency," said the old Turk soberly, "there are some things in life that are well left alone and there are moments when justice should be so blind that she does not see guilt here is such a moment."

And this ended the interview, one on which T. X. had set very high hopes. His gloom carried to Portman Place, where he had arranged to meet Belinda Mary.

"Where is Mr. Lexman going to give this famous lecture of his?" was the question with which she greeted him, "and, please, what is the subject?"

"It is on a subject which is of supreme interest to me;" he said gravely; "he has called his lecture 'The Clue of the Twisted Candle.' There is no clearer brain being employed in the business of criminal detection than John Lexman's. Though he uses his genius for the construction of stories, were it employed in the legitimate business of police work, I am certain he would make a mark second to none in the world. He is determined on giving this lecture and he has issued a number of invitations. These include the Chiefs of the Secret Police of nearly all the civilized countries of the world. O'Grady is on his way from America, he wirelessed me this morning to that effect. Even the Chief of the Russian police has accepted the invitation, because, as you know, this murder has excited a great deal of interest in police circles everywhere. John Lexman is not only going to deliver this lecture," he said slowly, "but he is going to tell us who committed the murder and how it was committed."

She thought a moment.

"Where will it be delivered!"

"I don't know," he said in astonishment; "does that matter?"

"It matters a great deal," she said emphatically, "especially if I want it delivered in a certain place. Would you induce Mr. Lexman to lecture at my house?"

"At Portman Place!" he asked.

She shook her head.

"No, I have a house of my own. A furnished house I have rented at Blackheath. Will you induce Mr. Lexman to give the lecture there?"

"But why?" he asked.

"Please don't ask questions," she pleaded, "do this for me, Tommy."

He saw she was in earnest.

"I'll write to old Lexman this afternoon," ht promised.

John Lexman telephoned his reply.

"I should prefer somewhere out of London," he said, "and since Miss Bartholomew has some interest in the matter, may I extend my invitation to her? promise she shall not be any more shocked than a good woman need be."

And so it came about that the name of Belinda Mary Bartholomew was added to the selected list of police chiefs, who were making for London at that moment to hear from the man who had guaranteed the solution of the story of Kara and his killing; the unravelment of the mystery which surrounded his death, and the significance of the twisted candles, which at that moment were reposing in the Black Museum at Scotland Yard.

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