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Authors: John Creasey

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Shadow of Doom

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Shadow Of Doom

 

First published in 1946

© John Creasey Literary Management Ltd.; House of Stratus 1946-2013

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

 

The right of John Creasey to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.

 

This edition published in 2013 by House of Stratus, an imprint of

Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Fore Street, Looe,

Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.

 

Typeset by House of Stratus.

 

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.

 

ISBN
 
EAN
 
Edition
0755136292
 
9780755136292
 
Print
0755139623
 
9780755139620
 
Kindle
0755137973
 
9780755137978
 
Epub

 

This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author's imagination.

Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.

 

www.houseofstratus.com

 

 

About the Author

 

John Creasey – Master Storyteller - was born in Surrey, England in 1908 into a poor family in which there were nine children, John Creasey grew up to be a true master story teller and international sensation. His more than 600 crime, mystery and thriller titles have now sold 80 million copies in 25 languages. These include many popular series such as
Gideon of Scotland Yard, The Toff, Dr Palfrey and The Baron
.

Creasey wrote under many pseudonyms, explaining that booksellers had complained he totally dominated the 'C' section in stores. They included:

 

Gordon Ashe, M E Cooke, Norman Deane, Robert Caine Frazer, Patrick Gill, Michael Halliday, Charles Hogarth, Brian Hope, Colin Hughes, Kyle Hunt, Abel Mann, Peter Manton, J J Marric, Richard Martin, Rodney Mattheson, Anthony Morton and Jeremy York.

 

Never one to sit still, Creasey had a strong social conscience, and stood for Parliament several times, along with founding the
One Party Alliance
which promoted the idea of government by a coalition of the best minds from across the political spectrum.

He also founded the
British Crime Writers' Association
, which to this day celebrates outstanding crime writing.
The Mystery Writers of America
bestowed upon him the
Edgar Award
for best novel and then in 1969 the ultimate
Grand Master Award
. John Creasey's stories are as compelling today as ever.

 

SHADOW OF DOOM

Somewhere in Europe there are hidden stores of radium, stores hoarded by the Nazis, supported by a big business syndicate. It is up to Dr. Palfrey to find them – and soon, for he discovers that there is more to the problem than just radium and Nazis. The businessmen, their identities concealed by sinister black masks, aim to bring Europe to an economic standstill – and starvation …

 

Chapter One
Mirage

 

Van Doorn stood with the cigar jutting from his lips, both hands clenched tightly by his side.

‘Sane men see mirages,' Palfrey was saying. ‘Great men dream dreams. This would be a worthy dream. Personally, I believe you if you say there is radium in large quantities hidden somewhere in Europe.'

‘You
do
believe?'

‘Yes,' said Palfrey. ‘It is perfectly logical. Radium doesn't disappear. There have been questions in some circles. Where has it gone? There are rumours, ugly rumours. The Russians have helped themselves, the Americans have helped themselves, we have helped ourselves. All of that is nonsense.'

‘It is the easy answer to an awkward question,' said van Doorn, ‘but I am glad there have been questions, it means that perhaps I shall be believed. There is one difficulty. I am not blind. I have studied the situation closely. Many doctors have reported hidden stores of radium, the Allied authorities have sometimes gone to great trouble to find it, and then found nothing. They become sceptical—but you know that.'

‘Yes.' Palfrey nodded.

‘For a long time I have suspected that the radium was hidden,' van Doorn went on. ‘There was much more at Rotterdam in the autumn of 1944 than when you freed us and took over the hospital. It was the same elsewhere, I heard. There was nothing certain about where it had gone, you understand, but there was suspicion that the Germans had taken it. Yet such a story would not be heeded, there have been many of them. I had to
know.
So I went to Berlin for two days, Palfrey. In Berlin there is von Kriess—you remember him, of course, von Kriess of Berlin?'

‘Yes.' Palfrey nodded again.

‘He told me that a young doctor, a Nazi student, had been to Rotterdam and taken the radium,' said van Doorn. ‘He had protested, knowing how it would be needed. The insolent youth insulted him. The talk we have heard so often—if the Nazis could not have Europe they would destroy it. And von Kriess had heard the same story from other places, too, of systematic pillage, radium stolen from many hospitals and institutions. It was, of course, out of spite, like the destruction of so many hospitals and so much medical equipment. That is
not
a mirage, Palfrey.'

‘No.' Palfrey sipped his tea.

‘It was deliberate, determined policy,' said van Doorn. ‘The Germans knew the importance of radium, knew that our difficulties would be halved if we had access to ample supplies. And they robbed us of it. The story is the same in Vienna, in Budapest, Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, even in Paris and Brussels, although more was found there than in the towns which were liberated much later. And I tell you, Palfrey, this radium can and must be found. Will you help?'

‘The question is not will I help, but can I?' said Palfrey. ‘And another question: where is the radium? There are a few strong points still held by desperate Nazis, a few mountain fastnesses. They will give us little trouble and will be overrun in due time, but it will be almost impossible to get hold of the radium if it is in one of them. Or in several,' he added.

‘I do not care what you say,' said van Doorn. ‘It exists, and it must be found.'

‘
I'm
not raising objections,' Palfrey protested. ‘My influence in high quarters is negligible, but the Marquis of Brett can move even Cabinet Ministers, and has the ear of the Prime Minister.'

‘Can we persuade this Marquis to help?' demanded van Doorn, eagerly.

‘Yes,' said Palfrey. ‘He will help and advise.'

‘Who is he?' asked van Doorn.

Palfrey waved his hand. ‘Oh, just a friend.'

 

Undoubtedly the Marquis of Brett was a power behind the scenes. At one time many members of Parliament had considered his power sinister, had believed him a Nazi or Fascist tool. They had said so and been ignored, and had railed against the Government for its dallying with collaborators. Those days had changed. For while it was true that at one time the Marquis had been in close touch with Berlin and Rome, it was also true that he had worked in the closest co-operation with Whitehall – and, later, with Washington and Moscow. While the Nazi leaders thought he might one day be the British Quisling, he had been able to work effectively against them. This, and much of what he did, was disclosed when Berlin discovered the truth, and the Marquis of Brett became a popular figure in England.

The Marquis was the man who had first thought of using secret agents from the Big Three nations together – Russian, American and British – on certain operations inside Europe. And he had selected Palfrey.

A specialist in tubercular diseases, from which so many suffered, Palfrey was also known as a man of courage and resource, despite his mild manner. He had pulled off a near-miracle on his first assignment, and this success had been followed by others equally brilliant. Almost inevitably he had become the leader of that mixed bag of agents in a department called, for record purposes, Z5. They were not always successful. Many of their members had been killed; others wounded and disabled. In fact, of all those who had worked for the Marquis of Brett, only Palfrey, his wife Drusilla, and the Russian, Stefan Andromovitch, had come through without serious injury.

Palfrey had become almost a legend. He had worked in Europe, Africa and Asia, sometimes achieving what was thought impossible, sometimes frankly admitting failure. Throughout it all he remained the rather diffident, amiable, quiet-voiced man whose appearance was so deceptively at odds with his true character. The Press would have lionised him, given half a chance.

Some rumours go into the papers; rarely with his photograph, but sometimes with Drusilla's, who photographed well. But while he did not mind publicity for the successful exploits of Z5, which in war-time were a great boost to public morale, he shunned it for himself. Because van Doorn had heard of his activities he had come to him. If that radium existed, what risks were not worth running to find it?

The taxi pulled up outside the Marquis of Brett's Brierly Place home. Christian, the white-haired butler, greeted Palfrey like an old friend, greeted van Doorn courteously, said that Mrs. Palfrey and the Marquis were waiting, and led them upstairs.

Brett was sitting at a large desk in a vast room. Two pillars supported the ceiling; they were of a reddish brown, mottled stone. The furniture was mahogany, brightly polished. Books lined the walls almost to the high ceiling. The tapestry curtains picked out the colours of the furniture and the mottled pillars.

Brett's head and shoulders were reflected in the highly polished desk, on which stood a silver inkstand, a blotting-pad with silver corners, and a telephone. He rose as they entered, a small, white-haired man with a benign expression, a handsome man, who carried himself well in spite of his seventy-odd years. At times there was a touch of hauteur about him – some called it arrogance – but it was absent as he shook hands with Palfrey and van Doorn.

Drusilla Palfrey was sitting by the side of the desk when they entered. Now she, too, stood up. Nearly as tall as Palfrey, she held herself very erect so that she looked taller than he. She was dressed in a plain, dark-green suit, cut on severe lines, and wore a wide-brimmed felt hat of the same shade of green. She was dark-haired; most men looked at her twice; and Palfrey adored her.

When they were seated, Palfrey said:

‘Professor van Doorn has brought me quite a story, Marquis. You'd be annoyed if I kept it to myself.'

Brett looked sceptical.

‘That's true,' protested Palfrey. ‘In a manner of speaking, it's up our street. I mean yours. Title— “Hunt the Radium”. How does it sound?'

‘Radium?' repeated Brett, looking at van Doorn.

Drusilla was not looking at the Dutchman, but at Palfrey. There was a gleam in his eyes which she had not known since he had been persuaded, against his will, to return to Wimpole Street and take up ordinary life again.

‘In large quantities,' said van Doorn.

‘Let me tell the story,' said Palfrey. ‘You put me right if I go wrong.' He smiled apologetically at van Doorn, stole a sidelong glance at Drusilla, and then talked in short, crisp sentences, putting emphasis where it was most needed. He did not suggest that there might be doubt about the existence of the radium. He spent a few minutes explaining, as if to someone who could not understand the magic in the word, what ‘radium' meant to ravaged Europe, and he finished on a hopeful note.

‘The time element is important. Weeks won't greatly matter, but months will. January and February are bad months, likely to be the crisis months in Europe. The general position of drugs, equipment and hospital accommodation will be bad enough, but the radium shortage will probably be the most harmful. Can we do something by Christmas, do you think?'

‘We must!' cried van Doorn.

‘The question is—
can
we?' insisted Palfrey, looking hopefully at Brett, who was playing with a quill pen. Somehow it seemed fitting for him to use such a pen.

‘An expedition would need the right people, plenty of money and a general visa to move freely about Europe,' said Brett.

‘Would anyone deny you that visa?' demanded van Doorn.

‘Some might try,' said Brett, ‘but I think we could get over that difficulty.' His manner was reassuring, and van Doorn looked delighted, as if he realised that Palfrey had been right, they would get help from the Marquis. ‘Getting the expedition together and equipped might be difficult. It is so hard to say what equipment will be needed,' Brett added.

‘This is not an expedition to the Arctic Circle,' said van Doorn, gustily.

‘No, but in some ways it is more difficult,' said Brett.

‘Not on the score of equipment,' said Palfrey. ‘We could probably get that as we went along. If not, we could have it flown to us from England, or the United States. Lend-lease has done many lesser jobs.'

Brett laughed. ‘Before we can call on such unlimited help we would have to convince everyone concerned that it was not a hare-brained notion, that there were real prospects of success. It is difficult to present to anyone a complete and satisfying outline of where the search would begin, where it would end, and what is likely to happen in the meantime. If we could say where the radium is we would have a stronger case. I think—if we
are
going to try to find it—it would best be a well-equipped private expedition with Government approval.'

‘Ah!' exclaimed Palfrey.

‘If!' cried van Doorn, scornfully, but there was a new light in his eyes. Palfrey and Brett kept saying ‘we', as if they were already decided on the expedition and ready to take part in it.

Drusilla was sitting back in her chair and looking very hard at Palfrey. He carefully avoided her gaze.

‘And as a private expedition it would need financing,' said the Marquis.

‘Find us a philanthropic millionaire with a bent for taking risks,' said Palfrey. ‘Can do?'

‘I might,' said the Marquis, ‘and in any case I think we could get the money from different people. It need not all come from one source. The most difficult thing will be personnel.'

‘There are
thousands
of men already tired of inaction,' said van Doorn; ‘that will not be difficult.'

‘We need the right men,' said the Marquis. ‘Palfrey, for one, if he were not so busy. Adromovitch, if he were not in Moscow. Bruton, if the Federal Bureau would release him. It will take time to find the people who are able and free to help, Professor.'

Now van Doorn was looking at Palfrey, as well as Drusilla, and Palfrey put his hands on the arms of his chair and rose to his feet.

‘First find the people, then the money, then—'

‘Will
you
lead this expedition?' asked van Doorn, and there was tension in his voice.

 

BOOK: Shadow of Doom
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