~ FREE SAMPLE ~
- The Ugly Monster
- The Black Cockerels
- A Near Thing
- Hawke Is Mysterious
- Dinga Swoops
- Hawke Moves
The Ugly Monster
“Here they come! You’re going to lose your fifty francs, Tommy lad. I told you not to put it on that black beggar, even if you did think him a dark horse!”
Mr. Dixon Hawke, the world-famous detective of Dover Street, laughed boyishly as he lowered his glasses and stared at the horses tearing down the straight. It promised to be a very thrilling race, and the crowds who filled the stands were cheering wildly. At that time there was no hint of war clouds over Europe, and people of all nations were gathered there.
The meeting was taking place at Var, the racecourse of Nice, on the Cote d’Azure, and was one of the culminating events of the season.
Dixon Hawke and his brilliant young assistant, Tommy Burke, were taking a well-deserved holiday, and found that gay gathering and background of blue Mediterranean a welcome change from the fogs of London. Criminals and crime were forgotten for the moment.
With the Dover Street pair was Inspector Jean Dumoulin, the clever little Parisian detective of Sûreté fame. The excitable Frenchman threw his lavender-coloured gloves and grey top-hat high into the air at the sight of the leading horse.
“Voila! I make a win!” he yelled. “I am as chirpy as what-you-call the cricket bat on the heath, n’est-ce pas?”
“Cricket on the hearth, you mean, Jean,” sighed Tommy, hastily grabbing at his hat before Dumoulin could fling it after his own. “Pinch the guv’s hat if you want to dance on another one,” he added.
“No, you don’t!”
Hawke removed his hat just in time, and turned to grin at his Parisian colleague. He was perhaps the only member of that happy crowd near the rails who looked the other way as the horses thundered down the straight to the post.
Just over the way, behind the special paddock where the criminologist and his companions were standing, was the car park, and Hawke was somewhat surprised to note a crowd of some twenty or thirty people who were gathered round one of the machines. They formed a close circle, and swayed slowly to and fro as if they were controlled by one will.
The car was a big saloon model, painted a rich red, and blinds were carefully drawn over the windows. Idly enough, Hawke had noticed the same machine on the road when he had driven over from Mentone in his own Sunbeam.
Why a crowd of people should be more interested in a motor car than in the chief race of the Riviera season was puzzling, and Hawke’s detective instincts caused him to focus attention. He swung his glasses, and frowned when he took a closer look at the faces of the people.
They were a cosmopolitan gathering, but they were all alike in the rigidity of their expressions and the pasty whiteness of their complexions. Some great emotion was holding them spellbound.
“Curious!” breathed Hawke.
He turned quickly as a wild yell from Tommy and a perfectly fiendish howl from Dumoulin announced the final of the race.
The big black horse which Tommy had favoured was boring through the pack with only a few lengths to go. Very slowly it drew level with the roan which had been Dumoulin’s fancy, and as the post was reached forged on to win by a head. The cheering was deafening.
“Here’s my hat, Jean!” laughed Tommy. “You can jump on it. I win two hundred francs, so I guess I can buy another one.’"
“Sacrebleu! But I have no more the desire to jump on the hat!” moaned the French detective. “Tiens, I am limp like the what-you-call wet rag.”
He mopped his streaming forehead with his handkerchief, and his bright eyes shot a quick look at Hawke. “You have not the interest in the race,” he said crisply.
“True enough,” smiled the criminologist. “I was wondering what funny business was going on near that red car in the park. There was a crowd round it just now, but now they’re going away. Jove, and I’m blessed if a couple of ‘em haven't fainted.”
“Perhaps they had their—is it not?—shirt on my horse,” suggested Dumoulin, turning to look in the direction Hawke indicated. “Mais, mon, it is merely that band of lunatics.”
“The sacred Cult of Light,” explained the little detective in French. “Have you not heard of them, my friend? They have a high priest who lives near Eze in a temple which his dupes built for him. One day I shall run him out of France. He is a negro from Central Africa, by name of Dinga, and I think that M’sieu Dinga is a great fraud.”
Dumoulin cracked his fingers, and lapsed into his queer English again.
“Zut!” he snapped. “On the Cote d’Azure there are many with nothing to do but make fools of themselves.
“They have money, but no brains. A clever man has but to say that he has a great teaching so obscure that nobody can understand it, and he finds a following who will keep him in luxury. Pfff!”
The Frenchman gave an indignant snort.
~ End of Sample ~