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ALBERT DORRINGTON

SIR CLAUD HEARS THE CUCKOO

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Ex Libris

As published in
Townsville Daily Bulletin, Queensland, Australia, 27 July 1935

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-05-08
Produced by Terry Walker, Gary Meller and Roy Glashan

All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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"I'VE listened to lions in the bush," Sir Claud told his daughter, "but that cuckoo clock, up there, makes me jump."

"Richard thought it would make a jolly surprise for everyone," Margaret explained. "I won't let him give me expensive presents. He can't afford to. And why does my little cuckoo make you jump, dear?"

Sir Claud reached absently for his box of Burma cheroots.

"It was this way," he said stifling a yawn "Coming home from Durban, once I was foolish enough to tell some fellows in the card-room of the liner that I was looking forward to hearing our English song birds, after an absence of ten years In the Transvaal.

"They were a smooth-faced gang in that ship's card-room," Sir Claud growled. "Polished and manicured like Riviera gigolos. They handed me all the bird jokes imaginable. They told me that the shepherds on the Sussex Downs kept cuckoos to welcome home-coming ships. And silly stuff like that.

"Well, girlie, the night we entered the Downs someone slipped into my cabin and handed me three clouts on the head with a loaded slick. When I came round, the next morning, my valise holding a parcel of rough stones from the Witterwalden claim, had disappeared."

"Poor Daddie."

"Believe me, girlie, I've had cuckoo noises in my head ever since that loaded stick hit me for three. So you see. I'm not very grateful to your friend Richard for sending the clock. He's dog poor; and these times a woman needs a man who'll give her a little six-cylinder instead of a cuckoo!"


SIR CLAUD BAMBER was a director of the Witterwalden Diamond Mining Syndicate. He owned a small service flat in Park Lane. Butlers and unwieldy staffs of servants were no part of his daily life. He had seen rich men overwhelmed, their routine work crippled in town houses by crowds of superfluous menials plodding in and out of rooms. He was a club man. Margaret spent most of the summer in the country houses of her friends.

The manager at the Witterwalden had just written him concerning a magnificent stone which had been sent to Singman of Amsterdam for a rough-out. It had been christened The White Planet on account of its unusual size and brilliance. The big gem was now on its way for his private inspection.

A detective from Scotland Yard, accompanied by Singman's confidential agent, arrived at the Park Lane flat. Sir Claud received them in his study, and after a brief examination of the costly gem, handed the usual receipt to the agent.

"I shall return the stone to Singman for finishing." he told both men. "In the meantime I want to show it to some of our shareholders in London."

The agent and detective each pocketed a five-pound note as they left the flat. Ten minutes after they had gone, a small two-seater car snailed along on the park side of the lane, halting some distance from Sir Claud's flat.

A thick-set, poker-faced man of forty, in evening clothes, alighted somewhat languidly. His langour took the form of a wide-armed yawn almost in the face of a slowly-striding policeman.

"No more dancing for me, Billy!" he called to the driver of the two-seater. "Three whole bally nights of it and a fourth coming!"

The policeman grinned as he passed towards Marble Arch. Always dancing time for some people, he reflected. For others it was just trying doors and stepping through the mud.

After the policeman had gone the man who found dancing a bore spoke again.

"Keep this roller skate twenty yards or so from the house, Billy. If Lefty doesn't hurry up I'll handle the crack without him. I told Kerry to send him here at nine sharp," he complained in an undertone.

"All right Spotty!" Billy answered from the two-seater. "You can never depend on Kerry keeping his word. Wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't sent Lefty on another job. You can never tell till the last minute."


SPOTTY SHANE fidgeted near the kerb, his restless eyes slanting occasionally on Sir Claud's rooms. He had arranged with the notorious Kerry to raid the safe known to be in the baronet's study. Although the Press had been silent in regard to the transfer of the White Planet diamond from Amsterdam to Park Lane, there were certain trade journals which had revealed the fact to Spotty and his friends.

Spotty was an American crook, as yet unknown to the London police. For a while he had been content to work with the badly-wanted Kerry, burglar and flat robber, a shifty, unreliable pal, as Spotty had discovered.

Almost at the last moment Kerry had signified his unwillingness to participate in the Park Lane job. But as a salve to Spotty's outraged feelings he had definitely pledged himself to send Lefty Logan to the scene of action. Lefty was a flame and dynamite artist who had been known to blow open a safe without so much as disturbing a music lesson in progress at the time, in an adjoining room.

Spotty had been attracted by Kerry's description of Lefty. He was little more than a boy with a perfect passion for good clothes. It was Spotty's intention to see how he worked on this safe and then take him to New York where artists and craftsmen came into their own.

No sign of Lefty. Spotty swore as he glanced at his watch. It was on the stroke of nine o'clock. A minute lost on the well-regulated Park Lane beat often spoiled the most delicate calculations. Where was Lefty?

Shane waited exactly fifty seconds. Then, with a lightning glance at Sir Claud's windows, nodded briskly to Billy in the two-seater.

"Tell this guy Lefty I've gone in alone!" he snapped. "Tell him I couldn't wait."


SHANE thrust into the car and drew out a German-made acetylene lamp. It fitted easily into the wide pocket of his stylishly cut overcoat. He threw away his cigar like a duellist about to face the steel. The door of the house was opened by a porter who evidently lived in the basement. Shane emphasized the importance of his visit by walking into the hall-way. His very gesture implied the urgency of his mission. In a little while the door closed with Shane inside the house.

Outside, Billy, in the two-seater, chuckled aloud. Shane was capable of the most barefaced frontal attacks. It was a treat to watch him work. He was one of the new school of confidence crooks, a linguist, a rubber-gloved gunman ready to kill, burn or drown his victims, if need be.

The door had scarcely closed on Shane when a tall youth in a velour hat and dinner jacket visible inside the immaculate dust coat he wore, lounged into view. He cast a furtive almost guilty look at the windows above, and then at Billy, in the two seater across the way.

Billy beckoned almost frantically. "Come here, kid!" he called softly as he took in the young man's faultless attire. "Are you one of Kerry's boys?" he asked as the velour hat came nearer. "Lefty Logan?" he added confidentially.

The shadow of a frown crossed the newcomer's face. His glance went over the toy car and the strained tenures of the hard-chinned man at the wheel.

"Sure, I'm Lefty!" he confessed guardedly. "And what about it?"

"Only that Spotty's gone in after the big blinker you've heard about. It's registered as the White Planet and worth a dozen country houses. Kerry promised to send you along to put the dope on the safe. You're late and Shane's on the jump. The stone came through from Amsterdam today. This particular beat is crawling with cops," Billy warned. "You can go in now or run away home!"

His debonair manner took flight at the invitation to run home. He turned to the house with something of the panther in his movements.

"You'd better slip in," Billy rasped gently "Old Sir Bimbo's alone. But I'm game to bet that opening safes isn't Spotty's strong card. In with you, boy!"

Lefty tightened the collar of his coat with professional celerity as he stepped across the road and touched the door bell. The porter opened it. Lefty presented his card somewhat nervously.

"I must see Sir Claud," he declared, but not with Shane's assurance. "He's expecting me."

The porter's half-smile was not reassuring.

"Sorry, sir! Sir Claud's engaged with a gent already. If you don't mind waitin'—"

"My business won't wait," Lefty told him as he slipped by and gained the stairs. "It's a conference of three. I'm the third man," he stated apologetically from the top of the stairs.

The porter stared alter his vanishing figure undecidedly. Sir Claud was certainly in the habit of holding impromptu meetings in his study, at all hours. If there were going to be any complaints about people crashing in Sir Claud would have to make them to his friends, the porter growled, as he retired sulkily to the basement.

Halting at the door of the study, Lefty Logan knocked lightly. There followed a series of sharp movements within, followed by the unmistakable throb-throb of an acetylene blowpipe.

"Come in!" It was 'Spotty' Shane's voice, slightly husky, now, as though from suppressed anger or excitement.

Lefty opened the door as one caressing each moment of life. Inside the study he remained rigid, staring at what he saw. In a tiny pool of blood Sir Claud was lying face down on the carpet. Beside him lay a heavy-cropped hunting whip. There were signs of a sharp, savage struggle. 'Spotty' was kneeling beside the open door of a small safe, his acetylene flame directed against a locked steel drawer within. Under his right knee was a big automatic revolver. The ugly weapon was there for speed and convenience. A mirror on the wall above him revealed Lefty's almost petrified figure in the doorway.

"Shut that door!" he snarled without turning from his work. Lefty obeyed and again waited for Shane to speak, while his glance went down to the supine figure on the carpet Shane's voice jerked him from his speculations concerning the murder hazard which had obtruded into the night's work.

"You're too late for your job, Mr. Lefty!" Shane assured him, pressing the flame well within the safe. "I've no time for people who can't keep an appointment."

"It was Kerry's fault." Lefty's hypnotized eyes moved in genuine horror from the outstretched figure on the carpet to the powerful automatic under Shane's knee.

"I took the key of this old meat safe from Sir Kybosh," Shane explained, "after I'd belted him on the nut with my gun. The key opened the safe, but not this inner drawer. The old fox hid the key; but it's opening now!"

Using a short steel stool deftly, Shane prised open the flame-softened drawer and drew it out with a grunt of satisfaction. On a wad of cotton wool lay a white diamond of perfect shape and lustre; a jewel with a thousand fires within its icy circle. A ribbon of blue silk was knotted around it adding charm and contrast to its lovely contours.

Shane's eyes snapped as he held it between his finger and thumb. Then he turned to the spellbound Lefty.

"You'd better hook it!" he flung out. "I'll meet you outside."

Lefty remained bent over the old man, his kerchief pressed to the blood bruise on the brow.

"Righto," he agreed, at last turning to the study door. With the suddenness of a panther he whirled over Shane's kneeling figure, his six-feet of boyish muscle and sinew enveloping the older man. With a clever left-arm hold on Shane's throat he reached down for the automatic pistol. Completely off his guard Shane crumbled under the unlooked-for attack. But only for an instant.

All the tricks of alley-way fighting, learned in youth, came to aid him now. He felt the long slim fingers of his opponent close in a deadly grip on the automatic.

"Let go!" he choked. "That porter downstairs will hear us!"

Over the carpet they writhed and fought, Lefty striving to tear the automatic from Shane's grasp. And Shane knew that the pistol was all that stood between him and the insatiable greed of the double-crossing Lefty. The fellow would stick at nothing to get the big white jewel, lying where it had been knocked from his grasp, near the safe door.

"Let go, Lefty!" he begged hoarsely, as he worked his broad back against the safe with the intention of shooting his heel full at the boy's face. "I'll go 50-50 on the night's work. I can hear that big wop downstairs moving."

Lefty's arm still formed a strangle hold on Shane's bull-throat. Slowly and with infinite skill he worked the diamond stealer's head down to the carpet, his fingers digging inside the other's grip on the automatic.

Shane experienced a suffocating blindness as Lefty's arm increased its deadly pressure. But he had just one little trick up his sleeve. It had saved him before when a rapacious pal had turned on him. His free hand shot inside the open safe and clutched the softly spluttering acetylene lamp. With a savage twist of his powerful body he brought the blow-pipe full on to Lefty's naked-wrist above the automatic. A slight thumb pressure on the nickel-plated clip in the elbow of the blowpipe spurted a tongue of colourless fire against the white flesh.

In the hands of Spotty Shane this tongue of colourless fire had turned the finest chilled steel to putty. Lefty's coat sleeve had become up-drawn in the scuffle, exposing the soft twining muscles and sinews. And the thin blast of flame struck clean and straight.

He realised that to let go the automatic meant a swift bullet in the throat. In the shift of a shoulder his fist smashed across Shane's out-thrust chin. It was a snort-armed blow, snappy as a whip cut.

Lamp and automatic slipped from Shane's paralysed grasp. His chest sagged as he rolled on the floor, the points of his fingers twitching spasmodically.


SWITCHING off the dangerously buzzing flame of the lamp, Lefty paused to wipe the perspiration of agony from his brow. The struggle, together with the shock of the acetylene flame on his wrist had brought him to the point of collapse. Blindly he stooped to the fallen jewel near the safe door, a sick inertia gripping his brain and nerves. A curious sound outside the study window reached him as he clutched the big South African gem.

Billy, of the two-seater, was making his way up the drain pipe outside. Tired of waiting and suspicious of a double-cross on Shane, he was about to investigate matters from his own angle. He could not risk a forced entry by the front door. Cat-climbing was his specialty.

Lefty saw his own peril. In the blink of an eye Billy at the study window would size up matters by climbing in. A man of few words, he would make a savage bid for the White Planet and disappear as silently as he had come.

Lefty half crawled into the adjoining room and braced himself with an effort as the window of the study was forced by the up-climbing Billy. Dizzy and sick he leaned with his fire-blazed arm against the mantelpiece.

Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

A moment or two later he had pitched face down on the hearth rug.


IT was late when Margaret entered the flat in Park Lane. She had been on a visit to Lady Saltern in Hampshire. Her sudden return was the result of a wire from Scotland Yard notifying her of the burglary at the flat. A nurse accompanied her into the room where Sir Ckaud lay propped between pillows, his head heavily bandaged. Commenting on the lateness of the hour, the nurse retired to wind the clock which had run down since the burglary.

Margaret kissed her father tenderly and soon learned that the blow he had received was not serious. He was cheered by the reflection that he had put up a fight with his old hunting crop when Shane came in.

"I'll admit the worst and then forget it!" he told her briefly. "The White Planet, loveliest of diamonds that ever came out—"

"Gone, Daddy?"

He nodded gloomily.

"A couple of plain-clothes men had been keeping an eye on the place. They saw a chap climbing the wall into my study. They nabbed him and took away the fellow, Shane, who got in here and belted me on the head with his revolver butt."

"Shane must have taken the diamond," Margaret hazarded. "There was no one else?"

Sir Claud shrugged despairingly.

"Shane and the other chap were thoroughly searched. Nothing was found. Anyhow, one of the gang is still in the flat. A lad that Shane addressed as Lefty."

Margaret stared. The old baronet fingered his bandaged head gingerly. "Lefty proved a decent sort. He stopped Shane finishing me off, I'll swear. He got the other fellow's gun. The scrap between them was something to watch. I was half conscious all the time. Shane turned a gas flame he was using on Lefty's wrist to make him let go. Scissors and smoke! I'll never forget it!"

Margaret listened to horror. "You hid Lefty from the police?" she queried.

"He was worth hiding. Not a bad looking lad. Take a peep at him," he added with a grin. "He's a bit feverish, but will be fit enough in a day or two."

Margaret stole tip-toe to the door of the room where Lefty was lying on a couch. His arm was swathed in bandages, his drawn face revealing the effects of his recent fiery ordeal.

Margaret's cry of amazement reached her father, "Why... it's Richard!" she gasped. "What does it mean?"

The young man with the bandaged arm made no attempt to avoid the soft cool cheek pressed against his own.

"I was strolling past the flat," he confessed, after a while. "I saw Shane's pal, Billy, waiting close by in a small car. He mistook me for Lefty, another member of the gang. So I walked in and introduced myself to Shane and his blowpipe."

"The cur!" Margaret exclaimed in tears. "And the White Planet disappeared!"

Richard's brow was twisted in an agony of thought.

"I took the stone from Shane," he confessed at last. "I'm quite fuddled about where I put it."

"Can't you remember, dear?"

His young eyes were still bright with fever. He seemed to be battling with his thoughts.

"I was scared of Billy," he said with an effort. "He wanted the diamond worse than Shane, and wouldn't have stopped at killing to get it. So, I was driven to—"

Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

The tiny gate of the clock on the mantelpiece clicked and opened. A strangely bedraggled bird popped through the opening. Margaret held herself from screaming. Suspended from the blue silk ribbon around its neck was the big South African diamond.

Richard rose to his elbow on the couch, a sudden gleam of recollection in his eyes.

"I put it there to cheat Billy!" he explained. "The blessed bird happened to pop out of the door the moment I felt myself going!"


"SEE here, Richard!" Sir Claud intimated, two days later, at dinner, "I'll cast a friendly eye on your future visits to this flat if you'll keep quiet about hiding my famous White Planet stone where you did."

"Why, Daddy?" Margaret laughed.

"Because I don't want my priceless gem to be known as the Great Cuckoo Diamond! Its market value would be seriously affected. Anyhow." he added, raising his wine glass to Richard and Margaret "here's to a little bird!"


THE END


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.