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ANONYMOUS

THE MISSING WILL

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2016



First published in Answers, the Amalgamated Press, London, December 18, 1909
Reprinted under syndication, e.g. in
The Daily News, Perth, Australia, February 2, 1910 (this version)

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2016
Version Date: 2016-12-06
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.

"GREAT SCOTT! Flinders, of Corpus! And up at eight!"

Sexton Blake sat back from his breakfast-table and stared in unaffected astonishment at the lantern-jawed, sallow-cheeked, heavy-eyed man whom Simmons had just shown into his room at Messenger Square this December morning as the clock was striking eight.

His visitor gave a somewhat sickly smile, placed his silk hat carefully on a side-table, and advanced with outstretched hand towards the detective.

Blake looked at the big, blue, rather flaccid paw, and coolly shook his head.

"Not much!" he said drily. "Too beastly cold! Go and warm. Have some brekker?"

He had never particularly cared for Flinders of Corpus in his Oxford days; for he was a soulless, rather spineless individual, curiously but insistently suggestive of an aquarium; and Blake was ever of too vivid a temperament to care for gelatinous vitalities. But some years had passed since then, and Septimus Flinders was now by way of being one of the most closely-marked successful solicitors in London, and was generally spoken of as being a sounder lawyer than many a K.C.; while his reputation among the criminal classes approached the dimensions of a public scandal, so craftily did he pilot past conviction and into liberty men whose guilt no sane man could doubt.

He had even plucked from punishment one or two men that Blake himself had earmarked as destined to a lengthy sojourn at the expense of a grateful country; and though the detective had not the small and bitter mind that bears grudges, yet he could not help regarding this cadaverous faced lawyer as a distinct danger to the public. Nor was he at all inclined to waste any time in pretending to be more cordial than he felt.

"Thank you, I have breakfasted," said Flinders, stepping over to the fire and looking moodily at Blake. "I must apologise for disturbing you so early, but as my firm insisted on consulting you, I thought I had better make sure of finding you in and laying the matter before you myself."

"The case concerns the will of a distant relative of my own," proceeded Flinders, in his drab, monotonous voice. "Our senior partner drew the will up some years ago; but old Joshua Flinders was a very stubborn and suspicious old man and insisted on keeping the will himself. He died a fortnight ago, at his house in Hampstead. But despite the most careful search the will has not been found."

"He may have changed his mind, and destroyed it," suggested Blake.

"I think not," drawled Flinders. "I was there when he died, and in the presence of the doctor he indicated an escritoire in a corner of his room, and said, 'You will find my will there.' But his memory must have been at fault. It was not there. And where it is has so far completely baffled us to imagine. The firm would like you to look into the matter. There will be, of course, your usual tee, whatever the result. But if you succeed in finding the will, I am authorised to offer you a bonus of two hundred and fifty pounds."

"Are you interested under the will?" asked Blake nonchalantly. "Was your relative wealthy?"

"He was probably worth some three million pounds," said Flinders, in a tone devoid of the slightest emotion. "Under the missing will, I was practically his heir. He has a son, who has been wild beyond all forgiveness. The old man was adamant against him. He would not even have his name mentioned in the will. His son— Harry is his name—came home when his father was dying, and was in the house for a few days before his death. He had also a niece—Miss Marion Hammond—er—a very beautiful girl."

He paused for a moment, and Blake, in the cover of the dish opposite him, saw Flinders' tongue moisten his thick lips, while a kind of angry, baffled light flecked his dark eyes.

It was a moment's exhibition, but to so keen, a student of psychology as was Blake it spoke eloquently.

"And was this niece also a beneficiary?" asked Blake suavely.

"On conditions," replied Flinders. "It was Joshua's desire that she should become my wife. And she was to receive ten thousand a year in her own right, and all his collection of pearls, on her marriage to me. If she married otherwise, she was to receive a legacy of one hundred pounds, and no more. She had been living with him. And I may add at once that the day before her uncle died she clandestinely married old Joshua's son Harry, at the Hampstead Registrar's Office, by special licence. And this brings me, also, to the fact that old Joshua's collection of pearls, valued at something like sixty thousand pounds, is also missing. They were in their case in his collection-room at ten o'clock of the morning of his death, for I saw them myself. But at noon—he died at eleven fifteen—they had disappeared, and no trace of them has been discovered."

Blake's brow was thoughtful, and he drummed lightly on the table with his fingers.

"In case the will is not found," he said abruptly, "the whole estate vests, I presume, in the son?"

"That is so," said Flinders,

"H'm!" said Blake. "On the mere face of it, and without prejudice, as you lawyers say, there would seem to be a very heavy burden of suspicion resting on Mr. Harry Flinders—if not also on his bride."

"On both, I think," said Flinders. "They stood to lose all. They now stand to gain all."

"And we have an uncommonly poor chance," said Blake, rising and loading his pipe; "for, unless the man is a born fool—and the woman too—they will have promptly consigned the will to the flames the moment they had it."

"Yes," admitted Septimus Flinders, with a sudden yellow gleam of passion in his sombre eyes, and the flicker of a smile that made Blake think of the eating of acid into steel, so venomous was it and corrosive—"yes; they will probably have done that. But, Mr. Blake"—he bent forward, and his voice grew suddenly hoarse and trembling with age and the lust of vengeance—"they will not throw into the flames sixty thousand pounds' worth of pearls. That is what we have got to seek and to find, and what will yet place Harry Flinders and his wife in the dock."

"We shall see," said Blake coldly. "Anyway, I'll look into the matter for you."

"Then I will conduct you at once to Hampstead," said Flinders. "My motor is waiting."


II.

BLAKE was very silent on the journey out. Of all things that he mistrusted in criminal cases, he most mistrusted an obvious case presented by an interested and vindictive party.

It was, therefore, with a mind strung to very high tension that he arrived at White Gables, the residence of the late Joshua Flinders, a large, somewhat gloomy-looking Victorian house in the East Heath Road, overlooking that part of the heath known as the Vale of Health.

The hall door opened as they advanced up the steps, giving egress to a man and woman, whom Blake instantly dubbed as the finest-looking couple he had ever seen.

The man was carrying two pairs of skates, and, together, he and the woman formed as pleasant a picture of winter's delight as could be imagined.

"Harry Flinders and his wife!" whispered Septimus Flinders in a choked voice.

He presented Blake more formally, as they reached the couple, who were regarding them with a sort of bantering good-humour in their eyes.

"Well, Mr. Blake," said young Flinders, "I am sure I hope you may succeed in your search. I am afraid it is ail up with our skating, Marion. I should like to be here, if anything is found, chiefly, Mr. Blake, because my cousin here has hardly taken the pains to conceal his suspicions that I or my wife—or both of us—are responsible for the disappearance of my father's pearls, and of the will which would have given him my father's fortune."

"It will be as well that you should be here," said Blake gravely. "I would like first to see the room where the pearls were kept, then the room in which Mr. Flinders died, and then the rooms occupied by the various parties interested."

It was only when Blake eventually reached the room sacred to the use of Harry Flinders that his interest seemed to quicken into a lively curiosity. It was a large room, situated on the ground floor, next door to the collection-room, and, like it, looking out on to the garden and the heath beyond.

In the bay-window was a table and an arm-chair, and a revolving book case. In a far corner of the room was a four-foot brass bedstead, with a double-glassed wardrobe to the right of it, and a dressing-table to the left, whilst the rest of the floor space was free; and in a corner opposite the bedstead a couple of guns, a cricket-bat, and various golfing-clubs were piled together in careless disorder.

Blake stood at the door leaning on his stick, his eyes appearing to roam the room, though in reality his whole attention was fixed on a little mirror that was let into the outside link in his left shirt-cuff.

Presently, with a little jerk of his head, he crossed the room, and, taking up one gun after another, opened the breaches and squinted down the barrels. Then he tapped the stocks, against the wall, as if to make sure they were solid. He next turned his attention to the golf-clubs, and treated them to the same experimental investigation.

Harry Flinders looked on with a broad grin of amusement on his handsome face, though his wife looked grave and concerned. Septimus had drawn nearer and nearer to Blake. His jaw was thrust forward; a light sweat made his cheeks greasy, and his eyes were positively wolfish in the intensity of their anticipation as he followed Blake's every movement about the room.

Blake, though his back was half towards him, lost nothing of the play of his face in the mirror in his link, and a peculiar smile flickered an instant on his lips as he lifted up the only article he had not as yet touched.

It was a challenge bat, with a silver shield let in above the splice.

"Be careful with that bat! I prize it!" said Harry, coming forward. "It is a trophy of my Oxford days."

"A most interesting one!" said Blake drily, as he examined the shield and the back of the splicing through his lens, and walked over to the table in the window.

"Most interesting!" he repeated. And then, with a sudden pressure of his thumb on the shield, and a deft movement of both wrists, he lifted the handle clean away from the blade, and, turning the latter upside-down, shook out a shower of pearls onto the table.

For a moment there was a dead silence that was broken by a low wail from the girl, who had shrank away from her husband's side, and was looking at him wildly with dazed, horror-stricken eyes.

"As I thought," said the lawyer, in a soft, unctuous tone.

"It is a plant!" said Harry passionately. "I did not even know the bat was made like that! Someone has had it done! I swear it! It was not like that when I used it last! I made a century off it! It would have splintered into forty pieces ax the first hit! It is a foul conspiracy!"

"Heroics and humbug will hardly serve you at this stage!" snapped the lawyer. "I shall formally charge him, Mr. Blake!"

"What with?" said Blake drily. "In the absence of any will, the stones are his own property."

The lawyer went White as paper.

Blake watched him narrowly. The lawyer took up the bat and peered into the hollow.

"There is a document in there," he said in a shrill, excited tone.

Blake took the bat from him, and with the aid of a dagger-like paper-knife on the table, drew out, after some skilful probing, a single sheet of parchment.

It was the last will and testament of Joshua Flinders, and, in some fifteen lines, devised the estate in the manner the lawyer had already described.

"This puts a different complexion on the matter," said Blake, as he pocketed the will and tucked the bat under his arm.

"You still persist in the charge, Mr. Flinders?"

"More than ever!" snapped the lawyer, with an air of sardonic satisfaction.

"In that case," said Blake, looking hard at Harry Flinders, "I must acquaint the police, and you had better come along with me at once. I will see you at three o'clock, and report in your office, Mr. Flinders."

"At three," said the lawyer.

Marion followed Sexton Blake and her husband to the waiting taxi.

"I am coming with you!" she said determinedly.

"It is the one thing I wanted to ask you to do," said Blake, as he handed her in, waving her husband to follow. Then, whispering an order to the chauffeur, he climbed in himself.

* * * * *

IT was exactly three o'clock when Blake, accompanied by a police inspector, was shown into Mr. Septimus Flinders' room in Lincoln's Inn Fields.

"You are punctual," began the lawyer, with an unctuous smile, that faded into an expression of fear and wrath as he perceived behind the inspector the forms of Harry and his bride.

"What is the meaning of this?" he cried, starting to ibis feet.

"It means," said Blake coolly, "that you are to be arrested for conspiracy and attempted fraud."

"You're mad!" snarled the lawyer, coolly seating himself.

"Your mistake," said Blake sweetly; "you shall judge. I suspected you from the first. You made your case too obvious. But you forgot to control your features in your cousin's room. I was watching your eyes in this mirror in my link. They blazed on the bat. It was as though you told me in so many words that the pearls and the will were there. But on the bat, as on the parchment, I found in three distinct places the trace of your thumb. I traced the workmanship and hollowing of the bat to Kitson, in Red Lion Street, and he identified you as his customer.

"I also traced the chemicals you used on the will to efface the codicil to your purpose. It may interest you still further to know that by the use of other chemicals we have restored the codicil intact, and are ready to prove that it revokes your interest, and leaves all jointly to Harry and his wife, whom it appoints sole executors. That is the case against you, and I don't think, with all your cleverness, you will squeeze out of it. Take him outside, inspector, before he faints."


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.