CASE OF THE CRUSADER’S AXE
I have heard people speak of Moris Klaw’s failures. So far as my information bears me, he never experienced any. “What,” I have been asked, “of the Cresping murder case? He certainly failed there.”
Respecting this question of his failure or success in the sensational case which first acquainted the entire country with the existence of Crespie Hall, and that brought the old world village of Cresping into such unwonted prominence, I shall now invite your opinion.
The investigation—the crime having baffled the local men—ultimately was placed in the hands of Detective-Inspector Grimsby; and through Grimsby I was brought into close touch with the matter. I had met Grimsby during the course of the mysterious happenings at the Menzies Museum, and at that time I also had made the acquaintance of Moris Klaw.
Thus, as I sat over my breakfast one morning reading an account of the Cresping murder case, I was no more than moderately surprised to see Inspector Grimsby walk into my rooms.
He declined my offer of a really good Egyptian cigarette. “Thanks all the same,” he said; “but there’s only one smoke I can think on.”
With that he lighted one of the cheroots of which he smoked an incredible quantity, and got up from his chair, restlessly.
“I’ve just run up from Cresping by the early train,” he began abruptly. “You’ve heard all about the murder, of course?”
I pointed to my newspaper, conspicuous upon the front page of which was—
THE MURDER AT CRESPIE HALL
“Ah, yes,” he said, absently. “Well, I’ve been sent down, and to tell you the white and unsullied truth I’m in a knot!”
I passed him a cup of coffee.
“What are the difficulties?” I asked.
“There’s only one,” he rapped back: “who did it!”
“It looks to me a very clear case against Ryder, the ex-butler.”
“So it did to me,” he agreed—“until I got down there! I’d got a warrant in my pocket all ready. Then I began to have doubts!”
“What do you propose to do?”
“Well,” he replied, “it wouldn’t do any good to make a mistake in a murder case; so what I should like to do would be to get another opinion—not official, of course!”
I glanced across at him.
“Mr. Moris Klaw?”
“You’ve changed your opinion respecting him?”
“Mr. Searles, his investigation of the Menzies Museum outrages completely stood me on my head! I’m not joking. I’d always thought him a crank, and in some ways I think so still; but at seeing through a brick wall I’d put all I’ve got on Moris Klaw any day!”
“But surely you are wasting time by coming to me?”
“No, I’m not,” said Grimsby, confidently. “Moris Klaw, for all his retiring habits, is not a man that wants his light hidden under a bushel! He knows that you are collecting material about his methods, and he’s more likely to move for you than for me.”
I saw through Grimsby’s plan. He wanted me to invite Moris Klaw to look into the Crespie murder case, in order that he (Grimsby) might reap any official benefit accruing without loss of self-esteem! I laughed.
“All right, Grimsby!” I said. “Since he has made no move, voluntarily, it may be that the case does not interest him; but we can try.”
Accordingly, having consulted an A.B.C. we presently entrained for Wapping, and as a laggard sun began to show up the dinginess and the dirtiness of that locality, sought out a certain shop, whose locale I shall no more closely describe than in saying that it is close to Wapping Old Stairs.
One turns down a narrow court, with a blank wall on the right and a nailed-up doorway and boarded-up window on the left. Through the cracks of the latter boarding, the inquiring visitor may catch a glimpse, beyond a cavernous place which once was some kind of warehouse, of Old Thames tiding muddily.
The court is a cul de sac. The shop of Moris Klaw occupies the blind end. Some broken marble pedestals stand upon the footway, among seatless chairs, dilapidated chests and a litter of books, stuffed birds, cameos, ink-stands, swords, lamps, and other unclassifiable rubbish. A black doorway yawns amid the litter.
Imagine Inspector Grimsby and I as entering into this singular Cumean cave.
Our eyes, at first, failed to penetrate the gloom. All about moved rustling suggestions of animal activity. The indescribable odour of old furniture assailed our nostrils together with an equally indescribable smell of avian, reptilian, and rodent life.
“Moris Klaw! Moris Klaw! the devil’s come for you!”Public Domain, Sax Rohmer, sfw