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ANONYMOUS

THE MIDNIGHT OPERATION

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RGL e-Book Cover 2017©



First published in Answers, the Amalgamated Press, London, October 17, 1908
Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
The Taranaki Daily News, New Zealand, December 12, 1908 (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2017
Version Date: 2017-01-25
Produced by Roy Glashan

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

Click here for more Sexton Blake stories



I.

BETWEEN half-past ten and eleven o'clock on a foggy November night, Dr. Dyson, a rising young surgeon, who had recently established himself in Maida Vale, was called upon by a man who arrived in a brougham, and who gave the name of "Mr. Hood."

Mr. Hood, who appeared to be greatly agitated, explained that his son, aged twenty-two, had been examining a loaded revolver when the weapon had accidentally exploded, and had practically shattered one of his fingers. He further explained that they had called in their usual medical attendant—Dr. Fox, of Elgin Avenue—and that Dr. Fox, not being an operating surgeon, had advised them to send for Dr. Dyson.

"He says the finger will have to be amputated," said Mr. Hood; "and he told me to be sure to tell you to bring all the necessary instruments and dressings, and whatever anaesthetic you wish to use. He is still at my house, in St. John's Wood Road, and will be glad to render you all assistance in his power."

Dr. Dyson hastily packed his surgical big, told his sister—who kept house for him—where he was going, and drove off with Mr. Hood in the brougham.

And from the moment he stepped into the brougham he vanished as completely and mysteriously as if he had melted into air. When his sister came down to breakfast next morning, and learned that her brother had not returned, she began to grow uneasy. Later in the day she went to see Dr. Fox, who at once declared that the whole of "Mr. Hood's" story, so far as Fox was concerned, was an absolute fabrication.

"I know nobody of the name of Hood," he said. "I have seen no young fellow recently with a gunshot wound of the hand. Most certainly I never sent anybody last night to fetch Dr. Dyson."

Half-demented With fear, Miss Dyson immediately communicated with the police. Inquiries were set on foot, which only disclosed the fact that nobody of the name of Hood resided in St. John's Wood Road, whilst all the efforts of the police to trace the brougham proved utterly unavailing.

Next day Miss Dyson consulted Sexton Blake; but, although the detective threw himself into the investigation with all his accustomed skill and ardour, his efforts proved no more successful than those of the police.

Meanwhile, of course, the newspapers had got wind of the case, and for the next ten days or fortnight the "Mysterious Disappearance of a London Doctor" was the talk of the country. Then something else occurred to distract the public's attention. Dr. Dyson was forgotten by everybody but his sister and Sexton Blake and the police, and his "disappearance" was relegated to the far too voluminous list of London's unsolved mysteries. And that was the end of the first act of one of the most interesting dramas in which Sexton Blake ever played a prominent part.

II.

THE curtain rose on the second act exactly three weeks, to the very day, after Dr. Dyson's disappearance. At his rooms, in Baker Street, Sexton Blake had just finished breakfast, about half-past seven in the morning, when his landlady informed him that there was a gentleman downstairs who wished to see him. And when the "gentleman" was ushered up, he proved to be Dr. Dyson.

That Sexton Blake was surprised goes without saying; but the detective's initial surprise was as nothing compared with his bewildered amazement when Dr. Dyson proceeded to relate the following startling story.

"When I followed Mr. Hood to the brougham," said Dr. Dyson, after relating the first part of the story, with which the reader is already familiar, "I saw there was a man inside, and as soon as the brougham started this man and Mr. Hood each whipped out a revolver and levelled it at my head.

"Mr. Hood then calmly admitted that the story he had told me in my consulting-room was a fabrication. He confessed that he had invented it to induce me to come with him; but he refused to say why he wanted me to come with him, or where he was taking me. He warned me that his companion and the driver of the brougham—both of whom I found afterwards were foreigners, with a very limited knowledge of English—were acting in concert with him, and that none of the three would hesitate to shoot me on the spot if 1 offered any resistance. At the same time, he gave me his word of honour that if I acted sensibly and made no fuss, no harm whatever would befall me.

"As I was completely in my captors' power, and they were obviously desperate men, I had no choice but to submit. After I had given my parole that I would not try to escape, they blindfolded mr with a silk handkerchief. I was unable to take note of the streets through which the brougham passed, and all I know that, after driving for about three-quarters of an hour, the carriage pulled up, and I was ordered to alight.

"I was then conducted into a house, and taken upstairs, and told to sit down. After an interval the bandage was removed from my eyes, and I found myself in a small cheaply-furnished bedroom. There were four men in the room, three of whom were armed with revolvers. The door had been locked on the inside, and the shutters of the only window had been closed.

"One of the men was Mr. Hood, who appeared to be an Englishman. The second and third were the driver of the brougham and the man who had ridden in the carriage with Hood and myself. Both these were evidently foreigners. The fourth was lying in the bed, and all I can tell you about him is that he appeared to be a young fellow of twenty-one or twenty-two.

"I think he was a foreigner, but I cannot be sure, for I never saw his face. Why? Because the upper part was concealed by a black velvet mask, and the lower part was covered with strips of sticking-plaster.

"'This is your patient,' said Mr. Hood, indicating the young fellow who was lying in bed. 'And all we wish you to do is to amputate the middle finger of his right hand at the second joint.'

"I examined the finger and found, to my amazement, that it was perfectly sound and uninjured. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it—nothing whatever to call for amputation. It was as healthy a finger, as free from deformity or disease, as any finger I ever saw.

"Naturally, I demanded an explanation; but in reply I was bluntly told it was not my business to ask questions, but merely to do as I was bidden. I appealed to the man on the bed, but all he would say was 'I wish you to do as Mr. Hood says.' It was the curious accent with which he pronounced these words which made me think he was a foreigner.

"You will think I was a coward, perhaps, but in the end, on the understanding that I should be free to leave the house as soon as I had performed the operation, I consented to do what my captors desired. What it all meant I could not imagine; but the fellow himself was apparently willing to have his finger amputated, and I was threatened with death if I refused to perform the operation; so, bowing to the inevitable. I agreed to perform it.

"As I had no medical man to help me, I was compelled to give chloroform myself, in addition to performing the operation, and whilst I was putting in the last stitch, I was horrified to discover that my patient had collapsed. I had given him too much chloroform. He was dying!

"Never shall I forget the scene which ensued when I announced this fact to Mr. Hood and his two confederates. They brandished their revolvers in my face, and swore the most terrible oaths that if my patient died I should not survive him half a minute. I tried artificial respiration, but without any benefit; and then I said to Mr. Hood: 'If I could procure some capsules of a certain drug, named nitrite of amyl, I could possibly bring him round. It's the only chance.'

"'There's a chemist's shop at the corner of the road,' he said excitedly. 'Write a prescription for what you want: but don't sign it with your own name. Sign it with the name of some other well-known surgeon of physician; then give it to me, and I'll knock the chemist up and get what you require.'

"He handed me a sheet of paper, on which I wrote an order for half-a-dozen capsules of nitrite of amyl, signing it with the name—may Heaven forgive the forgery!—of Sir Andrew Barker. Hood snatched it out of my hand almost before I had finished the signature, and dashed out of the room. Presently he returned with the drug I needed. It acted like magic. My patient quickly recovered, and a quarter of an hour later I was ready to take my departure.

"What happened next yon can probably guess. To put the matter in a nutshell, 1 was tartly informed that I must remain a prisoner in the house until my patient had completely recovered from the effects of the operation, and until the wound was healed. It was in vain that I stormed and protested. A prisoner I remained, dressing any patient's wound each day.

"At two o'clock this morning I was once more blindfolded, led out of the house and placed in the brougham. Mr. Hood accompanied me, and after an hour's drive, the brougham stopped. Mr. Hood then opened the door, dragged me to my feet and gave me a push which sent me Hying out. And by the time I had scrambled to my feet, and had torn the bandage my eyes, the brougham had disappeared.

"After wandering about for some time I discovered that 1 was on Hampstead Heath. When once 1 had discovered where 1 was, the rest was simple. By four o'clock I was back at my house; and after my sister had told me what she had done, and how she had consulted you, 1 decided to come here and seek your advice.

"And now that you have heard my story," he concluded, "what do you think of the whole affair? Why was 1 kidnapped and compelled to perform that seemingly unnecessary operation? Who were my captors, and what was their object?"

"Those are questions which I cannot possibly answer at present," said Sexton Blake. "1 must have some further information—which I think 1 can obtain—before I indulge in the luxury of formulating theories. In the meantime please tell me...."

He questioned Dr. Dyson at great length with respect to the personal appearance of his captors, and other details. Then, to the doctor's unconcealed disappointment, he was merely advised to go home, and leave matters in the detective's hands.

III.

AFTER Dr. Dyson's departure, the detective wrote out a circular letter, and took it to a firm of printers in the Euston Road. By eleven o'clock several hundred copies of the letter had been printed, and by half-past eleven they were in the hands of an addressing agency; and that afternoon every chemist within the metropolitan area received the following communication:—


Dear Sir,—

Shortly after midnight on November 26th, a London chemist was knocked up and asked to dispense a prescription for six capsules of nitrite of amyl. The prescription was in pencil and purported to be signed by Sir Andrew Barker. Were you the chemist? If so, please keep this communi­cation private, and wire to me at once to my rooms in Baker Street. 1 will defray all expenses.—

Sexton Blake.


The expected wire arrived about half-past four. It came from a chemist named Howarth, whose shop was situated at the corner of Ashberrv road, Maida Vale, a few hundred yards from Dr. Dyson's house. It merely stated that Mr. Howarth had dispensed the prescription alluded to in Sexton Blake's circular letter.

A hansom landed Sexton Blake at the door of Mr. Howarth's shop.

"The prescription was brought here by a gentleman named Wardour," said the chemist. "He knocked me up about half-past twelve. As he had been to my slop before, and as I had no reason to doubt the genuineness of the prescription, I gave him what he asked for. Did 1 do wrong?"

"Not at all," said Sexton Blake. "You couldn't have done otherwise. Where does Mr. Wardour live?"

"He used to live in this road, at No. 19," replied the chemist. "It's a furnished house, which Mr. Wardour took on a short lease about six weeks ago. He took up his residence there with three other men, who appeared to be foreigners."

"You say he used to live there. Do you mean he doesn't live there now?"

"Yes. He and his three companions left this morning. I saw them drive away in a four-wheeler, with a pile of baggage."

"You don't know where they went?"

"I only know that my little girl told me afterwards that she heard Mr. Wardour tell the driver to drive them to Victoria Station."

Fifteen minutes later Sexton Blake was at Victoria, where a brief enquiry among the porters elicited the fact that three men answering to Dr. Dyson's description of his captors, and a fourth man—who was doubtless Dr. Dyson's "patient"—had left by the 9.45 a.m. for Queenboro'.

Now, the 9.45 from Victoria to Queenboro' is a "boat-train," and is patronised by those who intend to cross to the Continent by the Queenboro'-Flushing route, which is the favourite route to Berlin and beyond.

The detective interviewed the officials in the booking office. One of the clerks recognised "Mr. Wardour," alias "Mr. Hood," at once from Sexton Blake's description.

"He and his three companions booked through to St. Petersburg," he said, "via Flushing and Berlin."

"And they left here at 9.45 this morning," said Sexton Blake. "What time would they reach Queenboro'?"

"Eleven o'clock."

"Then, obviously, I can't stop them it Queenboro'. They'll have left some hours ago. What time are they due to reach Flushing?"

"About half-past six."

The detective glanced at his watch. "Good!" he said, "I can catch them at Flushing!"

He drove to the G.P.O., from where he despatched a lengthy telegram to the Chief of Police at Flushing. A few hours later he received an answer:


ALL FOUR MEN ARRESTED. AWAITING YOUR INSTRUCTIONS.

IV.

AT half-past six next day the detective and Dr. Dyson arrived at Flushing, where the Chief of Police met them at the landing-stage.

"They've confessed everything," was his greeting, spoken in excellent English. "But their confession was superfluous. From the documents found amongst their baggage, it was easy to deduce the whole conspiracy."

"And what was conspiracy?" asked Dr. Dyson eagerly. By way of reply, the chief showed them a copy of an advertisement which, in various languages, had appeared at intervals during the past few months in all the principal European papers. In this advertisement—which had been published by order of the Russian courts—a reward was offered for the present address—-if living—or for proof of death—if dead—of one Ivan Figorski, who, by the death of several relatives, had unexpectedly become entitled to a fortune of several million roubles. A description of Figorski was appended to the Advertisement, which stated, amongst other things, that the middle finger of his right hand had been amputated at the second joint in consequence of an injury.

"Figorski died in a Paris lodging-house about three months ago." said the Chief of Police, "and all his belongings, including several papers which proved his identity, were taken possession of by a fellow-lodger, also a Russian, named Trepoff. When Trepoff saw the advertisement which I have just shown you he conceived the idea of passing himself off as Figorski—whom he closely resembled in height build, and with whose history he was intimately acquainted—and claiming his inheritance.

"There was one great obstacle in his way, however. He was sufficiently like Figorski to satisfy the lawyers, except in one respect. All his fingers were intact. To complete the resemblance to Figorski, therefore, it was essential that he should have the middle finger of his right hand amputated at the second joint.

"The rest you can guess. Trepoff, accompanied by two French confederates, named Monceau and Lerouge, came over to England, and, with the assistance of an Englishman named Thompson, carried out the cunning plot of which you were the victim.

"It was Thompson, masquerading as Wardour and Hood, who called and lured you away from home. It was Monceau who drove the brougham—which had been hired for the occasion—and it was Lerouge who drove with you to the house in Ashberry Road, which had also been leased for the occasion. It was Trepoff who, but for Mr. Sexton Blake, would have presented himself at the solicitor's office in St. Petersburg, and claimed Figorski's inheritance."

The sequel need not be described in detail. It will suffice to say that, after Sexton Blake and Dr. Dyson had given their evidence, the four prisoners were extradited to England, where they were subsequently sentenced to long terms of penal servitude.


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.