Max Carrados is the greatest detective you’ve never heard of. He may be blind, but what Carrados lacks in sight he more than makes up for in perception. He can pick out a voice in a crowded room and read a book by running his fingers over the print. Those who underestimate his abilities are soon surprised by the keen Carrados.
In one story, Carrados tracks down a criminal by analyzing a coin without ever leaving his study. Another finds him solving the mystery of a train accident that has far more to it than anyone expected. Bramah’s stories of Carrados regularly appeared in the Strand magazine, receiving top billing even over those of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
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By Ernest Bramah
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 2015 MysterousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE COIN OF DIONYSIUS
IT WAS EIGHT O'CLOCK at night and raining, scarcely a time when a business so limited in its clientele as that of a coin dealer could hope to attract any customer, but a light was still showing in the small shop that bore over its window the name of Baxter, and in the even smaller office at the back the proprietor himself sat reading the latest Pall Mall. His enterprise seemed to be justified, for presently the door bell gave its announcement, and throwing down his paper Mr Baxter went forward.
As a matter of fact the dealer had been expecting someone and his manner as he passed into the shop was unmistakably suggestive of a caller of importance. But at the first glance towards his visitor the excess of deference melted out of his bearing, leaving the urbane, self-possessed shopman in the presence of the casual customer.
"Mr Baxter, I think?" said the latter. He had laid aside his dripping umbrella and was unbuttoning overcoat and coat to reach an inner pocket. "You hardly remember me, I suppose? Mr Carlyle — two years ago I took up a case for you — "
"To be sure. Mr Carlyle, the private detective —"
"Inquiry agent," corrected Mr Carlyle precisely.
"Well," smiled Mr Baxter, "for that matter I am a coin dealer and not an antiquarian or a numismatist. Is there anything in that way that I can do for you?"
"Yes," replied his visitor, "it is my turn to consult you." He had taken a small wash-leather bag from the inner pocket and now turned something carefully out upon the counter. "What can you tell me about that?"
The dealer gave the coin a moment's scrutiny.
"There is no question about this," he replied. "It is a Sicilian tetradrachm of Dionysius."
"Yes, I know that — I have it on the label out of the cabinet. I can tell you further that it's supposed to be one that Lord Seastoke gave two hundred and fifty pounds for at the Brice sale in '94."
"It seems to me that you can tell me more about it than I can tell you," remarked Mr Baxter. "What is it that you really want to know?"
"I want to know," replied Mr Carlyle, "whether it is genuine or not."
"Has any doubt been cast upon it?"
"Certain circumstances raised a suspicion — that is all."
The dealer took another look at the tetradrachm through his magnifying glass, holding it by the edge with the careful touch of an expert. Then he shook his head slowly in a confession of ignorance.
"Of course I could make a guess — "
"No, don't," interrupted Mr Carlyle hastily. "An arrest hangs on it and nothing short of certainty is any good to me."
"Is that so, Mr Carlyle?" said Mr Baxter, with increased interest. "Well, to be quite candid, the thing is out of my line. Now if it was a rare Saxon penny or a doubtful noble I'd stake my reputation on my opinion, but I do very little in the classical series."
Mr Carlyle did not attempt to conceal his disappointment as he returned the coin to the bag and replaced the bag in the inner pocket.
"I had been relying on you," he grumbled reproachfully. "Where on earth am I to go now?"
"There is always the British Museum."
"Ah, to be sure, thanks. But will anyone who can tell me be there now?"
"Now? No fear!" replied Mr Baxter. "Go round in the morning —"
"But I must know to-night," explained the visitor, reduced to despair again. "To-morrow will be too late for the purpose."
Mr Baxter did not hold out much encouragement in the circumstances.
"You can scarcely expect to find anyone at business now," he remarked. "I should have been gone these two hours myself only I happened to have an appointment with an American millionaire who fixed his own time." Something indistinguishable from a wink slid off Mr Baxter's right eye. "Offmunson he's called, and a bright young pedigree-hunter has traced his descent from Offa, King of Mercia. So he — quite naturally — wants a set of Offas as a sort of collateral proof."
"Very interesting," murmured Mr Carlyle, fidgeting with his watch. "I should love an hour's chat with you about your millionaire customers — some other time. Just now — look here, Baxter, can't you give me a line of introduction to some dealer in this sort of thing who happens to live in town? You must know dozens of experts."
"Why, bless my soul, Mr Carlyle, I don't know a man of them away from his business," said Mr Baxter, staring. "They may live in Park Lane or they may live in Petticoat Lane for all I know. Besides, there aren't so many experts as you seem to imagine. And the two best will very likely quarrel over it. You've had to do with 'expert witnesses,' I suppose?"
"I don't want a witness; there will be no need to give evidence. All I want is an absolutely authoritative pronouncement that I can act on. Is there no one who can really say whether the thing is genuine or not?"
Mr Baxter's meaning silence became cynical in its implication as he continued to look at his visitor across the counter. Then he relaxed.
"Stay a bit; there is a man — an amateur — I remember hearing wonderful things about some time ago. They say he really does know."
"There you are," exclaimed Mr Carlyle, much relieved. "There always is someone. Who is he?"
"Funny name," replied Baxter. "Something Wynn or Wynn something." He craned his neck to catch sight of an important motor car that was drawing to the kerb before his window. "Wynn Carrados! You'll excuse me now, Mr Carlyle, won't you? This looks like Mr Offmunson."
Mr Carlyle hastily scribbled the name down on his cuff.
"Wynn Carrados, right. Where does he live?"
"Haven't the remotest idea," replied Baxter, referring the arrangement of his tie to the judgment of the wall mirror. "I have never seen the man myself. Now, Mr Carlyle, I'm sorry I can't do any more for you. You won't mind, will you?"
Mr Carlyle could not pretend to misunderstand. He enjoyed the distinction of holding open the door for the transatlantic representative of the line of Offa as he went out, and then made his way through the muddy streets back to his office. There was only one way of tracing a private individual at such short notice — through the pages of the directories, and the gentleman did not flatter himself by a very high estimate of his chances.
Fortune favoured him, however. He very soon discovered a Wynn Carrados living at Richmond, and, better still, further search failed to unearth another. There was, apparently, only one householder at all events of that name in the neighbourhood of London. He jotted down the address and set out for Richmond.
The house was some distance from the station, Mr Carlyle learned. He took a taxicab and drove, dismissing the vehicle at the gate. He prided himself on his power of observation and the accuracy of the deductions which resulted from it — a detail of his business. "It's nothing more than using one's eyes and putting two and two together," he would modestly declare, when he wished to be deprecatory rather than impressive, and by the time he had reached the front door of "The Turrets" he had formed some opinion of the position and tastes of the man who lived there.
A man-servant admitted Mr Carlyle and took in his card — his private card with the bare request for an interview that would not detain Mr Carrados for ten minutes. Luck still favoured him; Mr Carrados was at home and would see him at once. The servant, the hall through which they passed, and the room into which he was shown, all contributed something to the deductions which the quietly observant gentleman was half unconsciously recording.
"Mr Carlyle," announced the servant.
The room was a library or study. The only occupant, a man of about Carlyle's own age, had been using a typewriter up to the moment of his visitor's entrance. He now turned and stood up with an expression of formal courtesy.
"It's very good of you to see me at this hour," apologized the caller.
The conventional expression of Mr Carrados's face changed a little.
"Surely my man has got your name wrong?" he exclaimed. "Isn't it Louis Calling?"
The visitor stopped short and his agreeable smile gave place to a sudden flash of anger or annoyance.
"No, sir," he replied stiffly. "My name is on the card which you have before you."
"I beg your pardon," said Mr Carrados, with perfect good-humour. "I hadn't seen it. But I used to know a Calling some years ago — at St Michael's."
"St Michael's!" Mr Carlyle's features underwent another change, no less instant and sweeping than before. "St Michael's! Wynn Carrados? Good heavens! it isn't Max Wynn — old 'Winning' Wynn?"
"A little older and a little fatter — yes," replied Carrados. "I have changed my name, you see."
"Extraordinary thing meeting like this," said his visitor, dropping into a chair and staring hard at Mr Carrados. "I have changed more than my name. How did you recognize me?"
"The voice," replied Carrados. "It took me back to that little smoke-dried attic den of yours where we — "
"My God!" exclaimed Carlyle bitterly, "don't remind me of what we were going to do in those days." He looked round the well-furnished, handsome room and recalled the other signs of wealth that he had noticed. "At all events, you seem fairly comfortable, Wynn."
"I am alternately envied and pitied," replied Carrados, with a placid tolerance of circumstance that seemed characteristic of him. "Still, as you say, I am fairly comfortable."
"Envied, I can understand. But why are you pitied?"
"Because I am blind," was the tranquil reply.
"Blind!" exclaimed Mr Carlyle, using his own eyes superlatively. "Do you mean — literally blind?"
"Literally. ... I was riding along a bridle-path through a wood about a dozen years ago with a friend. He was in front. At one point a twig sprang back — you know how easily a thing like that happens. It just flicked my eye — nothing to think twice about."
"And that blinded you?"
"Yes, ultimately. It's called amaurosis."
"I can scarcely believe it. You seem so sure and self-reliant. Your eyes are full of expression — only a little quieter than they used to be. I believe you were typing when I came. ... Aren't you having me?"
"You miss the dog and the stick?" smiled Carrados. "No; it's a fact."
"What an awful infliction for you, Max. You were always such an impulsive, reckless sort of fellow — never quiet. You must miss such a fearful lot."
"Has anyone else recognized you?" asked Carrados quietly.
"Ah, that was the voice, you said," replied Carlyle.
"Yes; but other people heard the voice as well. Only I had no blundering, self-confident eyes to be hoodwinked."
"That's a rum way of putting it," said Carlyle. "Are your ears never hoodwinked, may I ask?"
"Not now. Nor my fingers. Nor any of my other senses that have to look out for themselves."
"Well, well," murmured Mr Carlyle, cut short in his sympathetic emotions. "I'm glad you take it so well. Of course, if you find it an advantage to be blind, old man —" He stopped and reddened. "I beg your pardon," he concluded stiffly.
"Not an advantage perhaps," replied the other thoughtfully. "Still it has compensations that one might not think of. A new world to explore, new experiences, new powers awakening; strange new perceptions; life in the fourth dimension. But why do you beg my pardon, Louis?"
"I am an ex-solicitor, struck off in connexion with the falsifying of a trust account, Mr Carrados," replied Carlyle, rising.
"Sit down, Louis," said Carrados suavely. His face, even his incredibly living eyes, beamed placid good-nature. "The chair on which you will sit, the roof above you, all the comfortable surroundings to which you have so amiably alluded, are the direct result of falsifying a trust account. But do I call you 'Mr Carlyle' in consequence? Certainly not, Louis."
"I did not falsify the account," cried Carlyle hotly. He sat down, however, and added more quietly: "But why do I tell you all this? I have never spoken of it before."
"Blindness invites confidence," replied Carrados. "We are out of the running — human rivalry ceases to exist. Besides, why shouldn't you? In my case the account was falsified."
"Of course that's all bunkum, Max," commented Carlyle. "Still, I appreciate your motive."
"Practically everything I possess was left to me by an American cousin, on the condition that I took the name of Carrados. He made his fortune by an ingenious conspiracy of doctoring the crop reports and unloading favourably in consequence. And I need hardly remind you that the receiver is equally guilty with the thief."
"But twice as safe. I know something of that, Max. ... Have you any idea what my business is?"
"You shall tell me," replied Carrados.
"I run a private inquiry agency. When I lost my profession I had to do something for a living. This occurred. I dropped my name, changed my appearance and opened an office. I knew the legal side down to the ground and I got a retired Scotland Yard man to organize the outside work."
"Excellent!" cried Carrados. "Do you unearth many murders?"
"No," admitted Mr Carlyle; "our business lies mostly on the conventional lines among divorce and defalcation."
"That's a pity," remarked Carrados. "Do you know, Louis, I always had a secret ambition to be a detective myself. I have even thought lately that I might still be able to do something at it if the chance came my way. That makes you smile?"
"Well, certainly, the idea — "
"Yes, the idea of a blind detective — the blind tracking the alert — "
"Of course, as you say, certain faculties are no doubt quickened," Mr Carlyle hastened to add considerately, "but, seriously, with the exception of an artist, I don't suppose there is any man who is more utterly dependent on his eyes."
Whatever opinion Carrados might have held privately, his genial exterior did not betray a shadow of dissent. For a full minute he continued to smoke as though he derived an actual visual enjoyment from the blue sprays that travelled and dispersed across the room. He had already placed before his visitor a box containing cigars of a brand which that gentleman keenly appreciated but generally regarded as unattainable, and the matter-of-fact ease and certainty with which the blind man had brought the box and put it before him had sent a questioning flicker through Carlyle's mind.
"You used to be rather fond of art yourself, Louis," he remarked presently. "Give me your opinion of my latest purchase — the bronze lion on the cabinet there." Then, as Carlyle's gaze went about the room, he added quickly: "No, not that cabinet — the one on your left."
Carlyle shot a sharp glance at his host as he got up, but Carrados's expression was merely benignly complacent. Then he strolled across to the figure.
"Very nice," he admitted. "Late Flemish, isn't it?"
"No. It is a copy of Vidal's 'Roaring lion.'"
"A French artist." The voice became indescribably flat. "He, also, had the misfortune to be blind, by the way."
"You old humbug, Max!" shrieked Carlyle, "you've been thinking that out for the last five minutes." Then the unfortunate man bit his lip and turned his back towards his host.
"Do you remember how we used to pile it up on that obtuse ass Sanders and then roast him?" asked Carrados, ignoring the half-smothered exclamation with which the other man had recalled himself.
"Yes," replied Carlyle quietly. "This is very good," he continued, addressing himself to the bronze again. "How ever did he do it?"
"With his hands."
"Naturally. But, I mean, how did he study his model?"
"Also with his hands. He called it 'seeing near.'"
"Even with a lion — handled it?"
"In such cases he required the services of a keeper, who brought the animal to bay while Vidal exercised his own particular gifts. ... You don't feel inclined to put me on the track of a mystery, Louis?"
Excerpted from Max Carrados by Ernest Bramah. Copyright © 2015 MysterousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
- THE COIN OF DIONYSIUS
- THE KNIGHT’S CROSS SIGNAL PROBLEM
- THE TRAGEDY AT BROOKBEND COTTAGE
- THE CLEVER MRS STRAITHWAITE
- THE LAST EXPLOIT OF HARRY THE ACTOR
- THE TILLING SHAW MYSTERY
- THE COMEDY AT FOUNTAIN COTTAGE
- THE GAME PLAYED IN THE DARK