The Clue of the Twisted Candle


That he should conduct a rapid examination of all the drawers in Kara's desk might be excused on the score of diligence, since he was, to some extent, in the confidence of his employer.

Kara was given to making friends of his servants - up to a point.

In his more generous moments he would address his bodyguard as "Fred," and on more occasions than one, and for no apparent reason, had tipped his servant over and above his salary.

Mr.Fred Fisher found little to reward him for his search until he came upon Kara's cheque book which told him that on the previous day the Greek had drawn 6,000 pounds in cash from the bank.This interested him mightily and he replaced the cheque book with the tightened lips and the fixed gaze of a man who was thinking rapidly.He paid a visit to the library, where the secretary was engaged in making copies of Kara's correspondence, answering letters appealing for charitable donations, and in the hack words which fall to the secretaries of the great.

He replenished the fire, asked deferentially for any instructions and returned again to his quest.This time he made the bedroom the scene of his investigations.The safe he did not attempt to touch, but there was a small bureau in which Kara would have placed his private correspondence of the morning.This however yielded no result.

By the side of the bed on a small table was a telephone, the sight of which apparently afforded the servant a little amusement.This was the private 'phone which Kara had been instrumental in having fixed to Scotland Yard - as he had explained to his servants.

"Rum cove," said Fisher.

He paused for a moment before the closed door of the room and smilingly surveyed the great steel latch which spanned the door and fitted into an iron socket securely screwed to the framework.

He lifted it gingerly - there was a little knob for the purpose -and let it fall gently into the socket which had been made to receive it on the door itself.

"Rum cove," he said again, and lifting the latch to the hook which held it up, left the room, closing the door softly behind him.He walked down the corridor, with a meditative frown, and began to descend the stairs to the hall.

He was less than half-way down when the one maid of Kara's household came up to meet him.

"There's a gentleman who wants to see Mr.Kara," she said, "here is his card."Fisher took the card from the salver and read, "Mr.George Gathercole, Junior Travellers' Club.""I'll see this gentleman," he said, with a sudden brisk interest.

He found the visitor standing in the hall.

He was a man who would have attracted attention, if only from the somewhat eccentric nature of his dress and his unkempt appearance.

He was dressed in a well-worn overcoat of a somewhat pronounced check, he had a top-hat, glossy and obviously new, at the back of his head, and the lower part of his face was covered by a ragged beard.This he was plucking with nervous jerks, talking to himself the while, and casting a disparaging eye upon the portrait of Remington Kara which hung above the marble fireplace.A pair of pince-nez sat crookedly on his nose and two fat volumes under his arm completed the picture.Fisher, who was an observer of some discernment, noticed under the overcoat a creased blue suit, large black boots and a pair of pearl studs.

The newcomer glared round at the valet.

"Take these!" he ordered peremptorily, pointing to the books under his arm.

Fisher hastened to obey and noted with some wonder that the visitor did not attempt to assist him either by loosening his hold of the volumes or raising his hand.Accidentally the valet's hand pressed against the other's sleeve and he received a shock, for the forearm was clearly an artificial one.It was against a wooden surface beneath the sleeve that his knuckles struck, and this view of the stranger's infirmity was confirmed when the other reached round with his right hand, took hold of the gloved left hand and thrust it into the pocket of his overcoat.

"Where is Kara?" growled the stranger.

"He will be back very shortly, sir," said the urbane Fisher.

"Out, is he?" boomed the visitor."Then I shan't wait.What the devil does he mean by being out? He's had three years to be out!""Mr.Kara expects you, sir.He told me he would be in at six o'clock at the latest.""Six o'clock, ye gods'." stormed the man impatiently."What dog am I that I should wait till six?"He gave a savage little tug at his beard.

"Six o'clock, eh? You will tell Mr.Kara that I called.Give me those books.""But I assure you, sir, - " stammered Fisher.

"Give me those books!" roared the other.

Deftly he lifted his left hand from the pocket, crooked the elbow by some quick manipulation, and thrust the books, which the valet most reluctantly handed to him, back to the place from whence he had taken them.

"Tell Mr.Kara I will call at my own time - do you understand, at my own time.Good morning to you.""If you would only wait, sir," pleaded the agonized Fisher.

"Wait be hanged," snarled the other."I've waited three years, Itell you.Tell Mr.Kara to expect me when he sees me!"He went out and most unnecessarily banged the door behind him.

Edgar Wallace