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PETER CHEYNEY

CALLAGHAN PLUS CUPID

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RGL e-Book Cover 2017



First published in Illustrated, Odham's, London, 14 Oct 1939
Published under syndication in, e.g.,
The Sydney Sportsman, Australia, 2 March 1942 (this version)
Collected in Mister Caution—Mister Callaghan
William Collins, London, England 1941

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-06-04
Produced by Terry Walker and Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Illustration

Slim Callaghan



CALLAGHAN, without moving his feet off the mantelpiece, growled, 'Come in.'

Effie Thompson, most trim, efficient and shapely of secretaries, came in.

'You ought to take your feet off the mantelpiece,' she said, 'because we've got the county on the telephone--and I mean county! She's Miss Eardley ffosbrough-ffosbrough--with two small 'f's and a hyphen. Not only that, but she's got a voice like a bad-tempered buzz-saw. In addition she does not wish to be kept waiting. Also she will speak only to Mr. Slim Callaghan himself. Finally, she is speaking from the Manor House at Wilminton, and she's asked for the charge for the call to be reversed.'

'You don't say,' said Callaghan.

He began to grin wickedly. With what appeared to be a simultaneous movement, he took his feet off the mantelpiece, the cigarette out of his mouth and the telephone receiver off its hook. Effie waited expectantly.

Callaghan said sweetly:--'Hello. Am I speaking to Miss Eardley ffosbrough-ffosbrough? Good. This is Slim Callaghan of Callaghan Investigations--Investigations. The Service that Never Sleeps--Sleeps--Sleeps.'

He winked at Effie.

'Mr. Callaghan,' said the voice acidly, I have reason to believe that my nephew--Rupert Eardley ffosbrough-ffosbrough--will be calling on you shortly. I believe he has gone to town for that purpose. I wish you to understand definitely that you will not interest yourself in any business that he may put before you. Any investigation that he may request you to undertake will be entirely out of order. Furthermore, I wish to inform you--'

'Just one moment, madame,' interrupted Callaghan pleasantly. 'Will you please answer one question? Just how old is your nephew?'

'My nephew is twenty-three,' replied the voice coldly. 'But I do not see what business that is of yours. You will not--'

'Rubbish, Miss ffosbrough,' snapped Callaghan. 'It is my business. Your nephew appears to be free, white and over twenty-one. If he wants me to undertake an investigation, and he's got the money to pay for it, Callaghan Investigations are the boys for him. Good afternoon, madame.'

A sound indicative of great spleen came over the wire.

'How dare you!' said the voice. 'Do you realise to whom you are speaking?'

'I'm not,' said Callaghan. 'I'm hanging up.' He suited the action to the word.

'Effie,' he said. 'When this ffosbrough bird appears, show him in. I'd do anything to annoy a woman with a voice like that.'


RUPERT Eardley ffosbrough-ffosbrough, wearing a light grey suit, a carnation, a monocle, an expression of grave concern and a black eye, gazed seriously over the desk at the private detective.

'I want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,' said Callaghan briskly. 'You don't have to tell, me that you're in trouble. I know it. Did your aunt give you that black, eye?'

'She did not,' said Rupert. 'Marella gave me that, but I don't think she knew how hard she was hitting. It was an enthusiastic slap, that's all. You see, I'd been in the summer-house with Texas and--'

'Begin at the beginning,' said Callaghan, putting his feet back on the mantelpiece.

Rupert sighed. 'Very well,' he said.

He drew a deep breath and began to talk.


WHEN the door closed behind Rupert, Callaghan lit a cigarette and rang for Effie Thompson.

'Tell Nikolas to come in here,' he ordered.

Nikolas came in. He was a medium-sized individual, of drab appearance, no apparent redeeming feature and a despondent expression.

Callaghan said, 'Sit down and listen, Nikolas. Last night, Miss Eardley ffosbrough-ffosbrough, an eccentric and bad-tempered lady of mature years, threw a party at the Manor House at Wilminton. There were a lot of people there.

'Miss ffosbrough-ffosbrough is trustee for her nephew, Rupert--our client. She has to hand the estate over to him on his 30th birthday or on the day on which he gets married--whichever comes first.

'One of the guests last night was an American girl named Texas McCormick. She's a beauty, an heiress, and is keen on Rupert. She was wearing a diamond and ruby bracelet that's worth fifteen thousand pounds. At ten o'clock, Miss Eardley ffosbrough-ffosbrough was talking to Texas in the hall and noticed that the clasp of the bracelet was broken. So Texas put the bracelet in her evening bag so that she shouldn't lose it.

'At ten thirty-five Texas walked down to the summer-house at the end of the front lawn to keep an appointment with Rupert, who doesn't seem to be over-burdened with brains. She had the handbag with her. She met Rupert and they sat down on deck chairs in the summer-house and talked. While they were talking Texas put her evening bag on the floor beside her. She had the idea in her head that Rupert was going to propose to her.

'He didn't. He told her that he wanted to marry Marella Jones--also a good-looker--who is Miss Eardley ffosbrough's secretary. He said that his aunt wouldn't come across with any money for them to get married with, that she did not approve of the match and would do everything in her power to stop it.

'He said that, once he actually was married, his aunt would have to hand over the estate. He suggested to Texas that she lend him her diamond and ruby bracelet to raise money on in order to get married to Marella.

'Texas said she'd see him pickled in vinegar before she did anything to help him to marry anyone but herself. They left the summer-house quarrelling and walked back to the house.

'When they got back, Texas remembered that she'd left her evening bag with the bracelet in it in the summer-house. She was just about to go and get it when Marella Jones appeared with the handbag. Texas accused Marella of spying. Marella said that she hadn't spied on anybody, that she'd gone into the summer-house, seen the bag on the floor, recognised it and brought it straight back.

'Texas opened the bag and found that the bracelet was gone. Then Rupert's aunt appeared and there was a first-class schemozzle. Have you got all that?'

Nikolas said he had.

'The position is now as follows,' said Callaghan, with a grin. 'Texas accused Rupert of having opened the bag--it was on the floor between her chair and his--in the darkness of the summer-house after she's refused to give it to him to pawn. Rupert denies this.

'The aunt--the ffosbrough-ffosbrough woman--accuses Marella of having taken the bracelet and returning the bag, hoping that Texas wouldn't open it and discover her loss. The aunt had given Marella notice to quit earlier in the day, having discovered that Rupert was keen on her.

'Rupert says Texas took the bracelet out of the bag during the scene between the two of them in the summer-house and dropped it somewhere, so that she could accuse him of having, taken it, because she was furious at his preferring Marella.

'Miss Eardley ffosbrough-ffosbrough says that Marella, furious at being given notice to go, took the bracelet so that she and Rupert could get married. Have you got all that?'

Nikolas said he had.

'Has anybody looked for this bracelet?' he asked glumly. 'Or were they too busy accusing each other?'

'The whole place has been searched from top to bottom,' said Callaghan. 'The aunt didn't want Rupert to come to me because she says that unless Marella returns the bracelet within two days she's going to call in the police. Texas says that if the bracelet isn't back within two days she's going to call in the police.'

'Where do I go from there?' asked Nikolas.

'Take the car and get down to Wilminton,' said Callaghan. 'It's a village in Berkshire. Rupert says that the servants from the Manor House go out for an hour in the evening in relays. Hang around. Listen to what they have to say.

'Try and contact the butler and stand him a drink or two at the local inn. Get anything you can. You ought to be down there by seven o'clock. Telephone me through here tonight at ten.'

'All right,' said Nikolas. He got up lugubriously. 'It's just my luck,' he muttered. 'I always have to go out on jobs where I have to drink beer with people in pubs--and I don't like beer.'

He went out despondently.

Ten minutes elapsed. Callaghan, his feet back on the mantelpiece, was engaged in blowing smoke rings when Effie Thompson put her head round the door.

'Miss Marella Jones is here,' she said.

Callaghan sighed and removed his feet. Effie held the door open for Marella.

Marella was a honey. She was the right height, had the right figure, the right hair and a pair of direct and lovely blue eyes. She wasted no time

'Mr. Callaghan,' she asked, 'has Rupert been here?'

'He has,' said Callaghan. 'I know all about It. What would you like to tell me?'

'I want you to represent me,' she said. 'Rupert's a dear, but he isn't frightfully good, at standing up to his aunt--the fearful ffosbrough. Will you do it?'

'Certainly.' said Callaghan. 'Consider yourself represented and take a chair. Tell me exactly what happened to you yesterday--everything since, say, immediately after lunch.'

He lit a fresh cigarette.

'Immediately after lunch,' said Marella Jones, 'Miss ffosbrough sent for me. She accused me of setting my cap at Rupert. She told that I'd simply taken the job as her secretary in order to get Rupert to marry me. She was quite appalling. You see, she wants Rupert to marry Texas McCormick. Then she gave me a week's notice.'

'And then?' queried Callaghan.

'She dictated some letters and an advertisement to go in the wanted column of the Daily Sentinel. She did it deliberately to annoy me. She dictated an advertisement for a new secretary: She said I was to type it out and see that it caught the afternoon post.

'Nothing happened last night at the party. I was unhappy because Rupert was dancing and talking with Texas most of the time. I was jealous. Just before eleven o'clock I went for a walk in the grounds. I took the path behind the summer-house. I decided to smoke a cigarette there.

'As I went in I saw Texas and Rupert walking towards the house. Her bag was on the floor. I picked it up and went straight after them. When she opened it in the hall, the bracelet was gone. She said Rupert had taken it and Miss ffosbrough said I'd stolen it. I think Texas dropped it deliberately in order to accuse Rupert. I sneaked out this afternoon and came up on the fast train to see you. Miss ffosbrough says that if the bracelet doesn't turn up by tomorrow night she's going to call in the police and accuse me of stealing it.

'She's been fearful to me this morning. She wouldn't even let me put the letters in the post-box in the hall. She said they might be missing too. Texas says that if the bracelet isn't found by tomorrow night she's going to telephone Scotland Yard and accuse Rupert. Isn't it terrible?'

'I don't think so,' said Callaghan. 'When are you coming up to town again?'

'Tomorrow afternoon,' said Marella. 'I've got to come up and collect the replies to the advertisement from the newspaper office. Miss ffosbrough says I'm to bring my portable typewriter with me and type replies to any likely-looking answers to the advertisement in the train on the return journey.

'She says she's going to make me earn my salary during my last week. How I loathe that woman.'

Callaghan got up. 'All right, Miss Jones,' he said. 'Just go back and behave as if nothing had happened. I'll probably see you sometime.'

'Do you think you can help?' asked Marella. 'I must say you sound a bit vague.'

Callaghan grinned.

'All the best detectives are vague. Look at Sherlock Holmes. Whenever he wanted to solve a case he used to take a shot of morphine and play the fiddle.'

'Too bad.' said Marella. 'Do your play the fiddle?'

'No,' said Callaghan. 'Somebody stole it out of the office while I was asleep. By the way, you didn't steal Texas's bracelet, did you?'

'I did not,' said Marella, with a toss of her head.

'That's all right,' said Callaghan, still grinning. 'Good afternoon, Miss Jones.'

When she'd gone he put his feet back on the mantelpiece and went to sleep.


AT 10 o'clock the telephone jangled. It was Nikolas. Callaghan woke up.

'Well?' he queried.

Nikolas said: 'I don't know a thing. Nobody knows anything. I've drunk four pints of old-and-mild with the gardener, three pints with the chauffeur and five pints with the butler. I feel awful.

'The butler says that nobody at the Manor House is speaking to anybody, that old Miss ffosbrough was shut up in the library all the morning with the family lawyer, trying to work out how she can get out of handing over Rupert's money if he insists on marrying Marella Jones. Texas McCormick has been sulking in her room all day.

'Nobody came down for lunch and nobody's been out except Marella Jones, who sneaked out this afternoon and returned just before dinner, and Miss ffosbrough, who went out, posted some letters and went back immediately afterwards.'

'I see.' said Callaghan. 'Have you got anything else?'

'No.' said Nikolas, 'only indigestion through drinking beer. What do I do now?'

'Take some bismuth and come straight back,' said Callaghan. 'You're the best worst investigator I ever met.'

He hung up, put on his hat and went out to supper.


AT seven o'clock next evening, Callaghan stopped his car before the imposing gates of the Manor House, walked up the drive, and asked to see Miss Eardley ffosbrough-ffosbrough.

She received him in the library.

'Well,' she said icily, 'and what do you want? If you are here about that bracelet business I refuse to discuss it with you. In five minutes' time a Police officer will arrive and we shall go to the railway station to meet my secretary--if she returns. I am going to insist that she be charged with stealing the bracelet. I suppose Rupert employed you to try and find some get-out for her. Well--what do you want?'

Callaghan grinned insolently.

'I want a cheque for five hundred pounds from you, madame,' he I said. 'You'll pay it and you'll like it. Your nephew and Marella Jones are going to be married as soon as he's got the licence. She's not coming back here.'

He sat down and lit a cigarette.

'I met her at Euston when she came up to town this afternoon,' he went on, 'and relieved her of the box number slip that you received from The Daily Sentinel. I went round and collected the replies to your advertisement in that paper for a secretary to take her place.'

Miss ffosbrough-ffosbrough gasped a little. She could not speak.

'Quite a neat little scheme,' said Callaghan. 'You sent that advertisement off by the afternoon post on the day the bracelet was missing--two days ago. That night, at the party, you were watching Rupert and Texas in the summer-house. You hoped he would propose to her. You wanted him to marry an heiress because you've probably been playing ducks and drakes with his money. You heard them having a row. When they'd gone, you wandered in there, saw her bag and grabbed the bracelet. At all costs you weren't going to let Rupert marry Marella.'

Miss ffosbrough-ffosbrough gasped again. She looked like a deflated barrage balloon.

'Next day,' said Callaghan, 'you had a bright idea for proving that Marella had stolen the necklace. You wrote out half a dozen replies to your own advertisement and addressed them to your box number at The Daily Sentinel.

'You put a bit of the bracelet in each one. You had already arranged to send Marella up to town to collect the replies and you'd asked her to take her typewriter and answer any likely ones on the way back in the train. Nice work.' He blew a smoke ring airily.

'You intended to meet her at the railway station with a police officer,' he continued. 'And you'd have found the bracelet on her. Who on earth would have believed her when she said she'd found the stones in the replies addressed to The Daily Sentinel?'

He got up and stubbed out his cigarette.

'You see, Miss ffosbrough;' said Callaghan, 'Marella told me that you wouldn't even let her put your letters in the post-box in the hall. Last night an operative of mine telephoned me that you went out in the afternoon merely to post some letters. They were the replies enclosing the bits of bracelet. You didn't dare to put them in the post-box in the hall here.

'Just write out that cheque, madam. We'll send you a receipt for professional services rendered. If you don't, I'll take the unopened replies from The Daily Sentinel along to the police station and let the police open them.'

Miss ffosbrough-ffosbrough said a very wicked word. Then with a heavy sigh she went to her desk for her cheque book.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is in the Australian public domain.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.