Roy Glashan's Library
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The Sydney Mail, Australia, 7 December 1932

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BARTHOLOMEW looked hard at the girl before him and tried to recall her case without referring to the typewritten notes on the desk beside him. She had entered his private sanctum before the office-boy could call out her name: 'Miss Olivia Thane!'

He hastened to greet her, his muscular fingers closing in a friendly way about her slender hand. People who knew Bart Angell said he used two separate hand-grips—one for jewel thieves and runaway husbands, the other for women in distress. The one he gave Olivia Thane was sweetly reassuring. Her case leaped to his mind while he held her hand. It interested him more than he cared to admit.

She had been engaged to marry Brunton Kennerly more than a year before. Brunton had gone to Darwin with the intention of stocking some land he had acquired from the Government.

Brunton was fresh from school, athletic and ambitious in a political land-owning way. His land lay south of Daly Waters. There were a five-roomed bungalow on the property, a couple of drays, some bullocks, and other relics of its former owners' pioneering days. Olivia Thane and Brunton had arranged to be married at Darwin. The date had been fixed. And then Brunton had been found shot through the heart outside the homestead rail of a young settler named Arcos. Some stockmen from the Roper had found the body, and had promptly notified the police. White police and black-trackers had failed to bring Brunton's slayer to justice. A spirit of hush-hush had settled over the crime.

Outside the Territory no one had heard of the killing. Of course, the police were at fault and offered little or no information concerning local feeling in the matter.

Olivia was not more than twenty, with soft dark eyes that mirrored something of her mental agonies. Yet, despite her youth and gentleness of manner, Bart Angell diagnosed a slumbering wrath against the mysterious killer of her fiancé.

'Mr. Angell, I can't understand why Brunton's murderer was not brought to trial! He had no enemies,' she declared, covering her face for a moment. Her soft, inaudible sobbing disturbed for a moment the iron composure of Bart Angell. Above his desk was his own bold advertisement, known and approved by many a suffering client':—


BART was fifty, iron-grey, with the vulture eye that could beam or grow moist at some unfortunate's story of cowardly neglect or bitter deception on the part of fleeing man or woman.

'Let us be brave, my dear Miss Thane,' he begged her. 'It is not always wise to probe these inscrutable acts of violence too closely. At first I was frankly unwilling to make the faintest thrust in the direction of the crime. Perhaps'—he paused to consider the lovely contours of Olivia's saddened face—'perhaps, Miss Thane, my first conceptions were justified. But after a while it grew upon me that the truth of Brunton's—Dr—misadventure should be made manifest.'

Olivia looked up quickly.

'You have found out?' It came like the cry of a hurt child in that narrow, high-walled office.

Bart Angell studied his hands for a space, then stared long and sorrowfully at the ghost-faced girl opposite him.

'Found out and put in place,' he assured her without a gesture. Followed a nerve-stabbing silence.

'The Gulf gives up her secrets,' he intoned at last. It was as if the loud beating of Olivia's heart had penetrated him, disturbed the even flow of his words. 'The Gulf gives up her secrets,' he repeated, 'to those who watch and wait, Miss Thane. Somewhere the truth is always written in the sands.'

In the throbbing silence Olivia felt that here at last she was face to face with her little tragedy, a tragedy the vastness of the Northern Territory had threatened to engulf. And before her was the iron grey man who had made the desert speak. She stood up, swaying slightly, breathing like a prisoner before the verdict. His voice sounded far away.

'We must keep our courage, Miss Thane. Life is full of cruel surprises.'

'Is the second part more cruel than the first?'

He scanned her afresh.

'Daly Waters has returned the answer. Although I cannot measure your capacity for absorbing pain, or feel what you feel, I may say that the second part of your tragedy is not without its sting. The man who shot Brunton is in Sydney.'

The dark iris of Olivia's eyes blanched.

'In Sydney?'

Bart Angell nodded. 'Sounds strange, I confess, Miss Thane. But all the facts are to hand. It has been a long and conflicting investigation,' he confided after a pause, 'on account of the distance, the bad roads, and the weather. The difficulties encountered would have broken the heart of an ordinary inquiry agent. There was the grave of Brunton the police had dug, but little or no information of the tragedy from old Sergeant Hannan, who had been in charge of the inquiry.

'My agent saw the two black-trackers, Combo and Paddy, who had worked with Hannan. They had nothing to say beyond the fact that a mob of cattle had passed over the ground about the time of the shooting and destroyed the tracks. Hannan had picked up the drovers at a place called Powell's Creek and subjected them to the usual cross-examination. Nothing came out of that lot.'

Bart Angell lit a cigarette, while a pleased grin suffused his tense, drawn face. 'We picked up the tracks of the slayer at Burketown, across to Normanton, and on to Cairns. 'We followed him aboard a fruit boat to Brisbane and down to Sydney.'

'Is he an old man?' Olivia's face was drained white as she waited for the answer.

Angell's lips tightened. 'You may soon see,' he declared, with the ghost of a smile, 'unless the unforeseen happens again. At the quay he managed to give us the slip.'

'You lost him?' Olivia flung out, with her first show of impatience.

An odd smile touched Angell's lips. 'Not quite, Miss Thane. Sydney is not always an easy place in which to lose oneself, especially for one unused to its ins and outs. We located him at Manly, but the very breath of our man's body seemed to reach him. He was gone again before we could obtain even a camera shot of him.

'All this time,' Angell paused to remind Olivia, 'you were haunting this office for information and more information. I purposely withheld everything. To be quite honest, Miss Thane, it is never good policy to allow impatient clients to join a chase. I felt positive you would never refrain from denouncing and attracting the attention of the police to the slayer of Brunton Kennerly.'

'It does not matter now,' Olivia, said with humility. 'We can deal with him piecemeal in our own way.'

Bart Angell smiled strangely. 'He is your bird, anyhow. And you'll find him in a very pretty cage. Probably the fool has realised by now that the Gulf was a much safer place for him than Sydney.'

'His address?' Olivia demanded, unable to control her rising impatience. The master of many mysteries leaned back in his chair like a head-hunter at peace after the long, successful trail.

'I am going to hand you this person's address, Miss Thane. My commission is complete.'

'And the proof of his identity?'

'Is contained in the notebook he took from Brunton's pocket after the shooting. It is still in his possession. For some unexplained reason he still clings to it. There is no doubt whatever of his identity. You may go to the proper authorities if you must. But it is doubtful if the notebook in his possession is sufficient evidence to start a prosecution in this country,' he warned her.

'I shall go to no one, Mr. Angell. Please give me his address.'

BART Angell sat up. The warm glow of the successful head- hunter became the frozen stare of the public accountant. 'You will appreciate the very considerable expense we have incurred in this case, Miss Thane. One of the most difficult enterprises in the history of my bureau.' 'How much?' Olivia interrupted.

The eye that was not of the elated head-hunter explored Olivia's expensive jewellery, the diamond-studded wrist watch, the cluster of almost priceless pearls peeping from the folds of her furs. He coughed easily, drew a long memo from the drawer beside him, frowned, and placed it before her like one in need of instant nourishment and fees.

'Three hundred pounds!' she exclaimed softly.

'The Gulf is a far cry,' he sweetly reminded her. 'Half-a- dozen air journeys and two of our men badly touched with Gulf fever. I assure you, Miss Thane, I would not undertake a similar commission for ten times the money.'

From her handbag Olivia drew out a cheque-book, filled in the amount with a pen from the desk, crossed it, and placed it on the blotter beside him. Bart Angell scrutinised the figures, then placed the cheque in the drawer. From a pigeonhole he took an envelope, passed it to her in silence. On it was written—

Philip Channing,
The Café Dundee,
Pitt-street, Sydney.

'He is English!' Olivia stated almost bleakly 'I imagined him to be a foreigner.'

'His name stands for nothing, Miss Thane. He is probably half foreigner. It does not matter; Philip Channing is your man. As a matter of precaution we'll send one of our men with you.'

'I'll go alone,' Olivia decided, with a set, white face. 'No man shall come between me and the murderer.'

OLIVIA walked slowly in the direction of the café. The place was familiar enough to her. For the moment it was regarded as a rendezvous for people with a flair for picturesque Australian backgrounds. An alleged stockrider with a whip was visible at the end of the palm and eucalyptus installed entrance foyer. Inside the café itself the floor was covered with a layer of sand. The white ceiling and walls were decorated with picturesque incidents in the life of a bushman.

The tame stockrider within the foyer greeted Olivia's entrance with a single word of welcome. It was past midday in the slack period between two and three o'clock. A young waiter of doubtful nationality conducted her to a small table within a palm-sheltered recess. The recess smelt of heavy bad cigars, patchouli, and stale food. A mirror, set in the Moorish panel above, showed the faint scarlet of her cheeks, the almost ghostly brilliance of her eyes.

Almost mechanically she sat at the little table, while the slow young waiter fussed over the paper serviettes and glasses beside her. He was probably twenty years of age, clumsy of foot and hand, for he broke a wineglass in his nervous haste to produce the bill of fare. His apologies were profuse and uttered in the hoarse jargon of the Levant. Was this Philip Channing?

For several moments Olivia allowed herself to picture the huddled-up figure of Brunton near the sliprail at Daly Waters, blood oozing from the bullet-hole in his breast. The picture grew clearer as the heavy-footed young waiter brushed the splinters of broken glass into a copper tray. He seemed to forget her presence in his almost panic anxiety to hide the evidence of his clumsiness.

Not a born waiter, Olivia told herself.

He disappeared with the tray, returning with another glass. Then he stooped over her, his hot breath touching her cheek as she blindly stared at the menu. Slowly and with some difficulty she looked up into his face.

'What is your name?' she inquired steadily. A wan smile creased his dark features; his clumsy feet shuffled uneasily on the sandy floor.

'José Andreas, ma'mzelle. You tak'a leetle wine, ma'mzelle?' he almost begged. Her glance wandered again to the gilt-edged menu.

'There is a waiter here named Philip Channing. I would like to see him, José.' A coin slipped from her gloved hand into José's palm.

Again the wan smile as José hurried away to inform Philip Channing that a very noble lady desired the pleasure of his company.

A terrible silence seemed to brood over the deserted café, that almost suggested the murderous loneliness of the Gulf wastelands. It was the trumpet call of her mission that stirred her to life. She must not miss this opportunity. The long shadow of the stockman slanted across the foyer, where the faint wintry sunlight seemed to enshrine him, adding to the illusion of her surroundings. It seemed incredible that here, in the heart of a great city, the slayer of Brunton could hide in security.

She heard a door close very softly at the end of the passage where José had disappeared. A current of air that was like a breath from a tomb stirred the palms beside her. It was as if a door of the unseen had opened and shut. For an instant her brain grew dark. Something with velvet feet had approached her chair, was standing behind her chair. A desire to scream, to dart from the alcove, seized Olivia. Instead she sat frozen, not daring to look up, because he was speaking.

'The signorina has sent for me? How may I serve the signorina?'

Olivia related briefly what had happened, while the old veteran sat back with brows buckling, but inwardly amused.'

He moved round the small table and stood before her, a wine napkin draped over his left arm. He was not more than twenty, with blonde eyes and the face of a child. Olivia regarded him in stark amaze, doubt and anger striking for mastery in her overwrought mind. 'Your real name is not Philip Channing!' she found courage to say.

'You come from a farm at Daly Waters. Your true name is Arcos!'

In a flash the waiter's pose was gone. He was standing erect, eyes illumined, head flung back. Then for an instant the childish softness returned to his face, a softness that was guilty of a single tear.

'I beg the signorina to spare me!' he pleaded in a low tone. 'If I am caught in this place the hangman will do the rest. Your pity and consideration, therefore, signorina.'

Olivia's small hand lay clenched on the table. She had another mental picture of Brunton lying under the sliprail.

'You will understand, Signor Arcos, that I have taken infinite pains to seek you out. It was on the night of December the fifth you shot my fiancé—for no reason and without a chance to defend himself!'


'It was on the night of December the fifth you shot my
fiancé—for no reason and without a chance to defend himself!'

He stared round-eyed, his limbs trembling slightly.

'The signorina overwhelms me! It is true I belong to Daly Waters, that my father and mother owned a farm and a few cattle. It is true also that I shot an Australian named Brunton Kennerly.'

'You coward!' He shrank away as if naked steel had touched him, but it was the action of one unafraid of steel.

'The signorina will never understand,' he said with difficulty. 'It is for that reason. I ask the signorina's forgiveness.'

'You shot him from the shelter of the scrub!' she accused. 'He hadn't a chance!'

He was tall and slender as a girl, but some unknown pain had burnt his eyes. In her young life Olivia had dreamed of boys and things that lived in the shadow of their cross. In a single phrase, a glance almost, he conveyed something of his crucifixion. He was speaking in a voice that seemed to come from the northern solitudes.

'I found Brunton's grave the night after those blacks carried him to the resting place.... Some day you will see the white cross I put there. Some day,' he intoned with a painful effort, 'you will see another cross near by. It also marks the resting- place of a loved one, of the flower of all human beauty.'

'Your wife?' Olivia leaned forward. His gesture was an ample response. Olivia huddled back in her chair. She waited as women often will for the knife to strike again. His voice was steady enough now.

'While I was away, looking after some cattle at Pine Creek, my thoughts were full of the woman who had given up so much to share my poor life at Daly Waters.'

He paused at the sound of the dressed-up stockrider's steps in the passage, as though in fear of being overheard. After the stock rider had settled in the doorway of the café he spoke again in rapid undertones.

'My wife's name was Zelia. She was but seventeen years of age. I thought of her day and night in the camp at Pine Creek, and I prayed that my mother at the homestead would not scold or bring bitterness into her life. The weather was hot and my mother's temper was not the best. She might not understand Zelia, and the heat of Daly Waters was often more than she could bear. I prayed, too, that Zelia would overcome her fear of the loneliness, for she had been bred in a gay city.

'But my prayers might have rested, signorina, had I known that she had discovered a protector in the Australian Brunton, who had come to Daly Waters with his money and smart clothes. I did not know, signorina, because there was trouble in my camp at Pine Creek—two horses poisoned through an accursed plant that grew on the edge of a gully. And then I was deserted by the black boy who had promised to help me with the cattle. Weeks after I returned to Daly Waters alone.'

He stood away from the little table, his boyish face disturbed by a paroxysm of coughing. He put up his hand as though a drop of blood had welled to his lips.

'Go on.' Olivia sat limply in her chair now, her beautiful face a death mask.

The blonde eyes of Arcos hardened to steel, although the tremor remained in his voice.

'A few miles from the homestead I met a swagman from Daly Waters, an old man who had helped me with some branding a year before Brunton's coming. He told me it was a pity Zelia was spending so much of her time with Brunton; even the blackfellows had noticed it, he said. He heard that the Australian cattle- owner was wearing her portrait next to his heart, that he wrote her letters when business took him to Port Darwin. Body of God! It was the talk of the Gulf townships. The overlanders, the drovers, and blacks were jeering at mention of my name.'

Olivia stirred wearily in her chair. Her lips were ashen.

'And so, on the word of an old swagman, you took upon yourself to stalk these two, took upon yourself the foul—' Olivia's voice broke into a dry sob. She covered her face.

He stood over her for an instant, his face bloodless, his eyes drunk with misery. Then he tore a bundle of letters from his inner pocket, placed them beside her on the table.

Followed a silence in which he heard the loud grind of traffic outside. It was a long time before her hand stole out to the bundle of letters; then, as if overcome by nausea and revolt, she thrust them aside. He sighed, nodded in swift understanding as he returned the letters to his pocket. But it was Olivia who spoke.

'You judged them guilty?' was all she said.

It was a long time before he answered. His chest heaved, his breath came through his clenched teeth. 'Some day, signorina, you may want to see the letters when your mind has healed, and the anger has gone from your heart. I pray you have pity on those two. I pray you have pity on them and me!

'They said he was promised to a sweet girl in Sydney. And I could not understand why such a man should steal my love from me, the love that cried like a child in my heart when I shot her by the lagoon beyond my mother's farm!'

OLIVIA stood up, while the bush pictures in the wall seemed to spin around her. Reaching the outer space, she turned and looked back at his sobbing shoulders within the palm-sheltered recess.

'God forgive you!' she said slowly. 'I do not want to see his grave or the cross above the poor little woman who broke your heart and mine.'

A moment later she had swept past the stockman yawning in the doorway, had gained the street without interruption. Here the warm sunlight stayed on her ice-cold cheeks and hands. It was some time before she recovered herself. With half-seeing eyes and her mind grown numb from the shock of her interview with the young waiter from the Gulf, she hailed a taxi and drove to the headquarters of police.

Arriving, she entered the office of a district inspector. He glanced up from his desk with a curious nod of recognition as she entered. Pushing aside some papers, he indicated a chair beside him.

'Was just beginning to wonder whether you wanted any help with your Angell,' he said with a smile. Then he regarded her troubled face for several moments. 'Nearly a month since you made your last report, Miss Thane. I hope you are going to like your work,' he added with kindly restraint.

He was nearly sixty and still fond of the game.

'I like it immensely, sir; but there are times when the Angells are a bit trying. And I've been treading so nice and softly, sir. He took me quite seriously. Never batted an eye when I handed him his costs.'

The inspector nodded briefly. Each hour brought dozens of more or less interesting problems to be solved, and there were times when the clever schemes of Sydney's restless criminals were apt to cloud his sixty-year-old brain.

'That fellow Bart Angell is a bad penny,' he stated, bringing his thoughts to bear again on Olivia's case. 'If I remember rightly, you undertook to impersonate the fiance of a young stock-breeder who had been shot dead somewhere up north? You invented the whole story and took it to Mr. Bart Angell.

'After the usual preliminary fees and refreshers he agreed to solve the mystery surrounding your fiancé's death and put you in touch with the assassin.' The inspector leaned back in his chair. 'Well?'

Olivia nodded gravely.

'Angell found an actor named Philip Channing, who gave adequate reasons for shooting a fiancé I did not possess.'

'How much?'

'Three hundred pounds, sir.'

The inspector whistled softly.

'A very dark Angell indeed. And how they fall!'

Olivia related briefly what had happened, while the old veteran sat back with brows buckling, but inwardly amused.


Olivia related briefly what had happened, while the old
veteran sat back with brows buckling, but inwardly amused.

'Good!' he broke out when she had finished. 'This lad Channing is evidently a finished artist, a born squire of dames and master of pure comedy. But let me say at once, Miss Thane, that although we're in a position to gaol the crowd I'm still guessing how Bart Angell attracts business—where he gets his clients.'

Although Olivia's eyes betrayed weariness after her recent ordeal her answer was to the point.

'He carries on a lot of straightforward inquiry work—divorce cases, letter-stealing, and the obtaining of keyhole evidence. He has a big clientele. But we are concerned with the poor pigeons, sir.'

The inspector favoured her with a sharp scrutiny.

'There are pigeons and pigeons, Miss Thane. Please make that point quite clear now.'

Olivia smiled a trifle sadly.

'The world is full of people, lovers and parents, who exist on make-believe, sir. They prefer the pleasant illusion to the raw facts of life. Bart Angell gets clients from the most unexpected quarters. Some time ago he met a wealthy brewer whose son had gone on a big-game hunt in Upper Nigeria.

'It was recently reported in the press that the boy had succumbed to an attack of sleeping sickness at a place called Mabwana. The news was brought by his native carriers and cabled home. Exact details of the boy's end were not forthcoming, but the carriers maintained that he died at Mabwana.

'You will realise at once, sir, the agonies endured by the father of the boy until Bart Angell took up the case. He sent an agent to Nigeria, a clever rascal who mailed back the most comforting letters for the wealthy brewer's benefit.'

BART'S agent in Nigeria threw doubts on the story of the boy's death by quoting lengthy reports obtained from the various tribes in the vicinity of Mabwana. In a little while the agent was able to assure Sydney headquarters that the boy had just been heard of at a trading post fifty miles north of Ganda, on the river. The boy was rapidly regaining his health.

'Of course,' Olivia concluded wearily, 'the brewer is paying the piper and for a while, at least, is enjoying Angell's weekly bulletins from the African wilds.'

Although Olivia could dilate on Angell's dubious methods, she was still thinking of her encounter with Philip Channing at the Café Dundee, of his childlike eyes and sobbing shoulders. She was thinking of his story of the two graves within the Gulf solitudes.

The voice of the inspector dispelled her mental pictures.

'We'd better get busy on Angell, Miss Thane. We'll make him wish he was in Nigeria by the time he comes out. As for Channing, we'll put him away for a couple of years to give his imagination a rest. You've done well,' he added, patting her hand lightly. 'It's your first real scoop since you joined us. Keep it up; we need your cleverness and vision. Go home now—you need a rest. You'll hear from me soon.'

OLIVIA returned to her little flat, a feeling of weariness and depression overcoming her after her exciting labours.

It had all seemed so real, so convincing. She had few friends in life. Although her parents had left her comfortably provided for, her restless nature craved for work but out of the beaten track. She had gone to the chief of police with a burning desire to distinguish herself in the hunting down of criminals. The district inspector had been very patient. One or two unimportant missions connected with women and children had been assigned her.

Her entry into the Angell case revealed an amazing series of frauds. Late that evening Bart Angell was arrested while enjoying a big Spanish cigar within the perfumed seclusion of the Café Dundee. Philip Channing was nowhere to be found. A fortnight later a disgusted inspector of police received the following note from Olivia Thane:—

Dear Sir,

I beg to resign my post as a member of the police. The work is really too trying for my nerves. Let me add another confession of feminine weakness. The artistic side of Philip Channing's nature has impressed me. He is not a criminal; he is merely a brilliant young actor fallen among thieves. I can vouch for him becoming a useful member of society. On Tuesday last we were married at a registry office.

Olivia Thane.

'Damn!' muttered the old inspector. 'I've lost the only real lady detective that ever entered this department.'


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
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.