Bones in London

Produced by Al Haines

BONES

IN LONDON

By

EDGAR WALLACE

WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED

LONDON AND MELBOURNE

1921

CONTENTS

CHAP.
I.—BONES AND BIG BUSINESS
II.—HIDDEN TREASURE
III.—BONES AND THE WHARFINGERS
IV.—THE PLOVER LIGHT CAR
V.—A CINEMA PICTURE
VI.—A DEAL IN JUTE
VII.—DETECTIVE BONES
VIII.—A COMPETENT JUDGE OF POETRY
IX.—THE LAMP THAT NEVER WENT OUT
X.—THE BRANCH LINE
XI.—A STUDENT OF MEN
XII.—BONES HITS BACK

BONES IN LONDON

CHAPTER I

BONES AND BIG BUSINESS

There was a slump in the shipping market, and men who were otherwise

decent citizens wailed for one hour of glorious war, when Kenyon Line

Deferred had stood at 88 1/2, and even so poor an organization as

Siddons Steam Packets Line had been marketable at 3 3/8.

Two bareheaded men came down the busy street, their hands thrust into
their trousers pockets, their sleek, well-oiled heads bent in dejection.

No word they spoke, keeping step with the stern precision of soldiers.
Together they wheeled through the open doors of the Commercial Trust
Building, together they left-turned into the elevator, and
simultaneously raised their heads to examine its roof, as though in its
panelled ceiling was concealed some Delphic oracle who would answer the
riddle which circumstances had set them.

They dropped their heads together and stood with sad eyes, regarding
the attendant’s leisurely unlatching of the gate. They slipped forth
and walked in single file to a suite of offices inscribed “Pole
Brothers, Brokers,” and, beneath, “The United Merchant Shippers’
Corporation,” and passed through a door which, in addition to this
declaration, bore the footnote “Private.”

Here the file divided, one going to one side of a vast pedestal desk
and one to the other. Still with their hands pushed deep into their
pockets, they sank, almost as at a word of command, each into his
cushioned chair, and stared at one another across the table.

They were stout young men of the middle thirties, clean-shaven and
ruddy. They had served their country in the late War, and had made
many sacrifices to the common cause. One had worn uniform and one had
not. Joe had occupied some mysterious office which permitted and,
indeed, enjoined upon him the wearing of the insignia of captain, but
had forbidden him to leave his native land. The other had earned a
little decoration with a very big title as a buyer of boots for Allied
nations. Both had subscribed largely to War Stock, and a reminder of
their devotion to the cause of liberty was placed to their credit every
half-year.

But for these, war, with its horrific incidents, its late hours, its
midnight railway journeys by trains on which sleeping berths could not
be had for love or money, its food cards and statements of excess
profits, was past. The present held its tragedy so poignant as to
overshadow that breathless terrifying moment when peace had come and
found the firm with the sale of the Fairy Line of cargo steamers
uncompleted, contracts unsigned, and shipping stock which had lived
light-headedly in the airy spaces, falling deflated on the floor of the
house.

The Fairy Line was not a large line. It was, in truth, a small line.
It might have been purchased for two hundred thousand pounds, and
nearly was. To-day it might be acquired for one hundred and fifty
thousand pounds, and yet it wasn’t.

“Joe,” said the senior Mr. Pole, in a voice that came from his
varnished boots, “we’ve got to do something with Fairies.”

“Curse this War!” said Joe in cold-blooded even tones. “Curse the
Kaiser! A weak-kneed devil who might at least have stuck to it for
another month! Curse him for making America build ships, curse him
for——”

“Joe,” said the stout young man on the other side of the table, shaking
his head sadly, “it is no use cursing, Joe. We knew that they were
building ships, but the business looked good to me. If Turkey hadn’t
turned up her toes and released all that shipping——”

“Curse Turkey!” said the other, with great calmness. “Curse the Sultan
and Enver and Taalat, curse Bulgaria and Ferdinand——”

“Put in one for the Bolsheviks, Joe,” said his brother urgently, “and I
reckon that gets the lot in trouble. Don’t start on Austria, or we’ll
find ourselves cursing the Jugo-Slavs.”

He sighed deeply, pursed his lips, and looked at his writing-pad
intently.

Joe and Fred Pole had many faults, which they freely admitted, such as
their generosity, their reckless kindness of heart, their willingness
to do their worst enemies a good turn, and the like. They had others
which they never admitted, but which were none the less patent to their
prejudiced contemporaries.

But they had virtues which were admirable. They were, for example,
absolutely loyal to one another, and were constant in their mutual
admiration and help. If Joe made a bad deal, Fred never rested until
he had balanced things against the beneficiary. If Fred in a weak
moment paid a higher price to the vendor of a property than he, as
promoter, could afford, it was Joe who took the smug vendor out to
dinner and, by persuasion, argument, and the frank expression of his
liking for the unfortunate man, tore away a portion of his ill-gotten
gains.

“I suppose,” said Joe, concluding his minatory exercises, and reaching
for a cigar from the silver box which stood on the table midway between
the two, “I suppose we couldn’t hold Billing to his contract. Have you
seen Cole about it, Fred?”

The other nodded slowly.

“Cole says that there is no contract. Billing offered to buy the
ships, and meant to buy them, undoubtedly; but Cole says that if you
took Billing into court, the judge would chuck his pen in your eye.”

“Would he now?” said Joe, one of whose faults was that he took things
literally. “But perhaps if you took Billing out to dinner, Fred——”

“He’s a vegetarian, Joe”—he reached in his turn for a cigar, snipped
the end and lit it—”and he’s deaf. No, we’ve got to find a sucker,
Joe. I can sell the Fairy May and the Fairy Belle: they’re little
boats, and are worth money in the open market. I can sell the wharfage
and offices and the goodwill——”

“What’s the goodwill worth, Fred?”

“About fivepence net,” said the gloomy Fred. “I can sell all these,

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