Roy Glashan's Library
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As published in The Sunday Times, Perth, Australia, 26 March 1933

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-06-19
Produced by Terry Walker, Gary Meller and Roy Glashan

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Rordon's hand fell on a pile of typewritten notes beside him.

"Show her in," he instructed the sleek-haired office boy.

Bayley Rordon had two separate handgrips for clients—a hard one for cringing, shadow-hunted jewel thieves, a soft, close-fingered one for women in distress, accompanied by a gentle, reassuring pat on the arm. The one he reserved for Teresa Chantry was fatherly, but firm. He saw at a glance that she had been crying.

Her case was outlined in the correspondence beside him. James Ambrose, her fiancé, had gone to Palestine, a year before, with the intention of starting a business and acquiring some land. Ambrose had been found shot through the heart within the walled garden of a Greek moneylender named Zapolis.

Consular reports of the affair were vague and contradictory for political reasons, it seemed to Rordon, the crime had been hushed up. Zapolis had powerful friends in Beirut and Damascus, while "Jimmy" Ambrose had probably been regarded as one of the many adventurers whose sudden exit was of small moment.

Teresa Chantry thought otherwise. She was barely in her twenty-second year, and she seemed to have known Jimmy since she could remember. Despite her almost childlike sweetness of manner, Rordon, the mystery man of Shadowland, diagnosed a slumbering wrath against the slayer of her fiancé.

"I am sure James had no enemies in Palestine," she told the stiff-jawed detective. "And this Greek, Zapolis, was allowed, you say, to disappear after the crime. Why didn't the police go after him?"

Rordon's fist opened and shut above the piles of correspondence on his desk.

He was fifty, with iron-grey hair, and the vulture's eye that could grow soft, or flame with the lightning of indignation at the news of police neglect and unpunished crimes.

"It is not always wise to press these matters too closely, Miss Chantry. I've been silent for a long time in order to spare your feelings. But now"—he paused to consider the lovely contours of Teresa's grief-stricken face—"you shall hear the truth."

"I want to hear!" In that narrow walled office it came from her like the cry of a hurt child.

He was silent for a space. Then: "It has been a long, heart- breaking task, Miss Chantry. Palestine is a long way. The difficulties we experienced in getting at the facts would have disorganised the average detective agency. We found nothing but lies and silence. One of my men discovered the grave of Ambrose, in the Christian cemetery at Beirut."

"But this miscreant, Zapolis?" broke from Teresa.

"Left the country in secret. Despite the fact, Miss Chantry, that Ambrose was regarded as a gentlemanly filibuster by many, Arabs and Jews alike, he was an Englishman; and the friends of Zapolis felt that sooner or later the British would get him. It might take a year or ten. And so Zapolis, disguised as a Mohammedan priest, made his getaway on an oil tanker, the 17th day of April last. It has taken us six months to locate him here, in London!"

Teresa Chantry sat very still in her chair, a strange dreaming blindness in her young eyes.

"In London!" she said at last. Then she put out her hand, the fingers clenched almost to the bone.

"Give me his address, Mr. Rordon. Give it to me, please!"

The master of many mysteries leaned back in his chair like a hunter at peace after the long successful trail.

"In good time, Miss Chantry, I will hand you Zapolis' address."

"And the proof of his identity?"

"Is contained in the note he took from Ambrose's pocket, after the shooting. For some unexplained reason Zapolis still clings to it. Probably it contains evidence of some value to the Greek. Anyway, there's no doubt about Zapolis' identity."

"Give me his address," she repeated.

Bayley Rordon sat up. The warm glow of the successful hunter became the frozen stare of the public accountant.

"My expenses have been very heavy, Miss Chantry. You see?"

"How much?"

Rordon's eyes explored Teresa's expensive jewellery, the platinum wrist watch, the rope of pearls visible below the collar of her sable coat. Then he drew a long memo from the draw of the desk, and placed it before her with a sigh.

"A thousand pounds!" came from her.

"Beirut is a far cry," Miss Chantry. "Half a dozen air journeys; two of my men badly hurt by those infernal desert Arabs. Believe me or not—I wouldn't undertake another case like it for twice the amount."

Teresa, drew a cheque book from the gold mesh bag she carried, and filled in the amount with a pen from the desk. Crossing the cheque, she placed it before the heavy-browed detective.

He scrutinised the figures before putting it in his desk. With a flick of the finger be thrust a card before her. On it was written:

c/o Mr. Wong Kee,
Salter's Wharf,

"In the house of a Chinese!" she gasped.

"His last refuge. Miss Chantry, and a pretty safe one, under normal conditions. If you feel you must see Zapolis, I'll send one of my men with you."

Teresa reflected a moment. "I'll go alone," she told him after a while. "No one shall come between me and the slayer of James Ambrose."

LATE that afternoon Teresa's car pulled up at Salter's Wharf, opposite the restaurant of Mr. Wong Kee. The damp, steamy windows were half-hidden by pale yellow curtains of oriental pattern. A cheap eating house, a refuge for the turban and the pigtail, the opium-runner, and gunman.

Teresa swallowed her fears as she stared at the greasy windows. A policeman passed her leisurely, paused to kick a piece of orange peel from the pavement before moving on. The sight of him gave her courage.

A number of tables filled the dingy restaurant. The place was empty. In a little while it would be filled with the dock-pilings and riff-raff of the river side. She entered, her heart pounding within her. There were some stairs leading to overhead rooms. The smell of hash and stale food assailed her An old Chinaman in a blue blouse and floppy shoes emerged from a screened recess at the end of the room.

"You likee cup of tea, lady?" he intoned with a toothless grin. A screw of wet towel hung from his arm. He nodded, pushed a chair near one of the tables, his slat eyes devouring the sable coat of the young visitor.

He brought the tea, and stood waiting further orders. Teresa had made up her mind. Her hour had struck. She met the Chinaman's stare with a set, white face.

"A man named Zapolis is living here. Will you bring him to me?"

The grin vanished from the Chinaman's lips: his thin yellow finger took refuge in the wide sleeves of his blouse.

"Why fo' you wantee see Anty Zapoli?" he questioned. "No good for you to know Zapoli."

Teresa put a pound note in his palm. "I won't keep him long," she promised "Bring him to me, now!"

Wong Kee nodded like a spring-fitted image as he shuffled to the foot of the stairs to inform Antonio Zapolis that a young and beautiful lady was waiting to see him.

A terrible silence seemed to fill the Chinese den while Teresa waited for Wong to return. In that silence she allowed herself to picture again the huddled figure of Jimmy Ambrose within the walled garden of the Greek money-lender, Zapolis, the bullet hole in his breast, the look of stark agony on his young face.

The picture grew clearer as the Chinaman came down the stairs. Wong Kee spoke at her elbow. "He is comin'. Not keepee you long."

Teresa felt she dared not look up as she waited. A door above her slammed softly; then came heavy steps, the sound of someone breathing heavily. Zapolis was standing beside the table.

"You have sent for me," he said, quietly. His voice had the oily intonation of the Levantine trader. A black and red scarf muffled his hairy throat. His hair was matted and grey; heavy gold earrings and a faded, grease-stained dressing gown completed his alien appearance.

Teresa found courage to meet his hawk-like stare. The shadow of the policeman halted a moment outside, and he passed on. She braced herself quickly.

"I want to ask you why you shot James Ambrose in your garden at Beirut? I want to know the truth before seeking the aid of the police."

Zapolis' mouth opened and shut as one who had been struck unawares. Wong Kee had receded to his screened cubby at the far end of the room. Zapolis was breathing like an animal in pain. It was some time, before he spoke.

"It is true I shot Ambrose in my garden at Beirut, madame!"

"You coward!"

"Listen, madame. I bore the boy no malice. You hear that? For a leedle while I loved him like a son. But there are some things, madame, a Greek cannot forgive. I could not forgive the coward blow he struck at me!"

Zapolis' claw-like hand, went up in a gesture of pain, his whole body seemed torn by savage recollections—

Teresa sat frozen, watching him in dumb amazement. A moment ago she could barely restrain herself from handing him to the police. Now she remained silent and inert, waiting for the news to come.

The Greek money-lender loosened the scarf about his throat as one ridding himself of a hangman's knot. His face relaxed, his eyes softened strangely as he bent near her.

"Have pity, thou, for one who has suffered. I am an old man, broken in health, living in this vile den of opium thieves and smugglers. Yesterday I was happy in my rose garden, my leedle daughter, Helen, my house, and treasures. All gone, all gone!"

Teresa had heard men weep, but not with the stifling agonised restraint of the Greek money-lender. She waited ages it seemed, until he recovered. With both hands resting on the table, he spoke with face half-averted, the clatter of the Chinaman's dishes drowning his hoarse voice at times.

"Ambrose came to Beirut and made many friends. He was poor, yet there were people ready to help and finance his schemes for the new treatment of oil fuels. He came in the evening to sit in my beautiful garden. He taught my daughter, Helen, a wonderful game of tennis while I looked on, content and happy."

"I was rich, madame. I lent money to traders, oil men, the poor people of the caravan routes. I loaned money at good interest to merchants in Jerusalem and Damascus.

"My name was good; my house was respected by the sheikhs and carpet-makers with bills to exchange and discount. I robbed no one. In Jerusalem I built an alms-house for aged Christians and destitute children.

"My daughter, Helen, was not pretty, madame. She was dark, with skin the colour of an olive. Men did not bother her or send her roses and sweetmeats. A simple child who could not remember her mother long dead—long dead."

Zapolis walked from the table, his long fingers twisted in the black and red scarf about his throat. He returned with a muttered apology for his womanish displays of emotion.

"I saw, madame," he went on slowly, "that Helen loved this Ambrose. I felt he was an English gentleman. What did it matter? Let them love, and I will go to the wedding," I told my friends.

"Everyone laughed, and said it would be fine for me to exchange my money for good English blood. I did not laugh at that, madame. I was arranging, just then, a big loan to a syndicate of merchants. The money was in American dollar bills and English notes.

"I came home from Damascus late one night, to find Helen gone. My safe was open; everything taken! An Arab told me that Ambrose had been seen with Helen eight miles from the town. I had borrowed heavily to provide the loan for the merchants. I was now bankrupt."

Zapolis paused to wipe his brow with the end of his scarf.

"A week afterwards," he went on, hoarsely, "they found Helen dead on the beach, with an empty bottle of chloral beside her!"

Teresa put up her hand as though a drop of blood had welled to her lips. Zapolis drew a bundle of letters from a pocket in his greasy dressing gown.

"I am keeping them for the police to read," he declared, holding them before her. "Look at them! They are from Ambrose to Helen!"

Teresa pushed them aside, her face white and miserable.

He grunted an inaudible word as be replaced the letters in the folds of his gown. "So be it, madame. It is better that you should not read them."

She spoke with difficulty now. "How did James come to your villa the night you—you—"

Zapolis hunched his narrow shoulders, his toes in-turned like the paws of a wolf.

"The night Helen was found on the beach I heard someone moving outside. Helen was lying between lighted candles, dressed, in her mother's wedding garments, her face dark in death. I went outside. Ambrose was there, the man who had stolen my money and broken Helen's heart. He had been drinking at a cafe, gambling with American oil men and Jews. All the money was gone!

"Madame, I led him into the room where Helen lay between her seven candles. Whiles he looked down at her I got my rifle and waited for him to come out. When he saw the weapon in my hand he closed with me. We struggled in the garden... the rifle exploded; he fell into the road, where I left him."

TERESA rose from the table, the fumes from Wong Kee's kitchen stifling her heart and brain. Zapolis leaned against the stair rail as one done with life, anxious for his hour to strike.

It was drizzling rain when she reached her car at the end of the by-way. She wished she could have cried like Zapolis the Greek, and buried her torment in the fumes from an opium jar.

In spite of the fact that she had inherited a moderate fortune at the death of her father, her life had been rather lonely. It was going to be lonelier in the years to come.

Poor, deluded Jimmy Ambrose! The air of the East had poisoned his young mind. She had recalled their quarrel a few days before he left England. He had begged her to go with him. She had refused. How much better if she had given way and gone with him. Not a single letter had passed between them!

Leaving her car at the garage, she entered the hall leading to her flat within the five-storey mansion overlooking Hyde Park. The lift-boy muttered a word she could not understand as she ascended. Her brain had grown dark. She was hurt and sick and blind with terror.

In the corridor above was an oak settee. Seated on it, his hat tilted at the usual rare angle, was Jimmy Ambrose!

The sun had tanned Jimmy a biscuit brown. His clothes were expensive, his shoulders bigger and broader, his smile was the gayest thing since Henley. This was not the crawling, drunken Jimmy of Zapolis' nightmare story! The hands that were drawing her gently to his breast were not the hands that had dipped into the money-lender's safe!

Jimmy Ambrose was holding her very much as a big boy holds a crying child.

"Well," he demanded briskly, "what's been hurting you? Aren't you glad I'm home again?"

It was some time before the swooning, drumming noises faded from her brain, or the picture of Helen Zapolis lying between seven candles melted into thin air.

"When did you return from Beirut?" she asked faintly.

"Beirut?" He regarded her in stern bewilderment. "Don't know the place. I've been working for the Zambesi Electric Power Control since I left England. Where's this old Beirut, anyway? Do they have snow there, or is it one of those places where they grow lemons?"

Teresa went to her telephone and rang up the C.I.D. at Scotland Yard. In the past she had conferred with the department in connection with Jimmy's "disappearance."

Spellbound, Jimmy listened as she spoke to the listening chief.

"This morning I gave a crossed cheque for one thousand pounds to Mr. Bayley Rordon, private inquiry agent, for putting me on the trail of a Greek moneylender, Antonio Zapolis, Salter's Wharf, Limehouse."

"Well?" curtly.

"Zapolis said he shot my fiancé, James Ambrose, at Beirut, about six months ago, for reasons which almost justified his act."

"Oh, yes. Any more?"

"Only that Mr. Ambrose is here looking the picture of health, but slightly freckled. He's never been in Palestine. What shall I do?"

Came the answer from the C.I.D.:

"Go to a theatre and enjoy a real play, Miss Chantry. I promise you Rordon will be here in twenty minutes wearing our latest thing in handcuffs. We want him for getting money out of people anxious to trace missing friends and relations. When a husband, son, or lover goes astray and can't be located, he frames up a clever story, like the one he told you, probably, and collects his fee for expenses incurred.

"The chap, Zapolis," the chief told her, "is a broken-down actor with a flair for emotional parts. He's Rordon's star performer. We're not tin-smiths down here. Miss Chantry, but you may rest assured we know how to can peaches like Zapolis and Rordon. They're both due for five years' hard labor. Thanks for your information and good-night."

Jimmy Ambrose made a wry face as Teresa put up the receiver.

"London's got Africa beat for thrills!" he declared. "I'll give it another by going to Limehouse and knocking eight bells out of that actor, Zapolis. I'll—"

"Don't be silly, Jim!" Teresa rang for her car. "We'll follow the Yard's advice and go to a theatre. If you hurt Zapolis you might have to run away and hide yourself in the African jungle. I don't want to start looking for you again."

They went to a theatre.


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.