Authors: Leslie Charteris
By LESLIE CHARTERIS
1932 by Leslie Charteris. Published by
Doubleday & Co., Inc. Printed in U.S.A.
PART I—The Inland Revenue
PART II—The Million
PART III—The Melancholy Journey of Mr. Teal
The Inland Revenue
Before the world at large had heard even one lonely
about the gentleman who called himself, among other
things, the Scorpion,
there were men who knew him in secret.
They knew him only as
the Scorpion, and by no other name; and where he came from and where he lived
were facts that
certain of them would have given much to learn.
It is merely a matter of history that one of these men had an
legal right to the name of Montgomery Bird,
which everyone will
agree was a very jolly sort of name for a
bloke to have.
Mr, Montgomery Bird was a slim and very dapper little
although it is true he wore striped spats there were
even more unpleasant
things about him which were not so
noticeable but which it is the
chronicler’s painful duty to record. He was, for instance, the sole proprietor
of a night
club officially entitled the Eyrie, but better and perhaps
more appropriately known as the Bird’s Nest, which was a very low
club. And in this club, on a certain evening, he inter
viewed the Scorpion.
That Simon Templar happened to be present was almost
Simon Templar, in fact, having for some time past cherished
businesslike interest in the affairs of Mr. Montgomery
Bird, had decided
that the time was ripe for that interest to
bear its fruit.
The means by which he became a member of the Eyrie are
Simon Templar had his own private ways of doing
these things. It is
enough that he was able to enter the prem
ises unchallenged. He
was saluted by the doorkeeper, climbed
the steep stairs to
the converted loft in which the Eyrie had its
being, collected and
returned the welcoming smile of the girl
at the reception
desk, delivered his hat into the keeping of a
liveried flunkey, and
passed on unquestioned. Outside the
glass doors that separated the
supper-room from the lounge he paused for a moment, lighting a cigarette, while
his eyes wan
dered lazily over the crowd. He already knew that Mr. Bird
was in the habit of spending the evening among his guests,
just wanted to make sure about that particular
evening. He made
sure; but his subsequent and consequent
movements were forced
to diverge slightly from schedule, as
will be seen.
Mr. Bird had met the Scorpion before. When a waiter came
informed him that a gentleman who would give no name was asking to speak to
him, Mr. Bird showed no
surprise. He went out to the reception desk,
nodded curtly to
the visitor, signed him under the name of J. N. Jones, and
the way into
his private office without comment.
He walked to his desk; and there he stopped and turned.
“What is it now?” he asked shortly, and the visitor shrugged
his broad shoulders.
“Must I explain?”
Mr. Bird sat down in his swivel chair, rested his right ankle
on his left
knee, and leaned back. The fingers of one carefully manicured hand played a
restless tattoo on the desk.
“You had a hundred pounds only last week,” he said.
“And since then you have probably made at least three
replied the visitor calmly.
He sat on the arm of another chair, and his right hand
the pocket of his overcoat. Mr. Bird, gazing at the
pocket, raised one
look after yourself well.”
“An elementary precaution.”
“Or an elementary bluff.”
The visitor shook his head.
“You might test it—if you are tired of life.”
smiled, stroking his small moustache.
that—and your false beard and smoked glasses—you’re
an excellent imitation of a blackguard,” he said.
“The point is not up for discussion,” said the visitor
“Let us confine ourselves to the object of my pres
ence here. Must I
repeat that I know you to be a trader in
illicit drugs? In
this very room, probably, there is enough
material evidence to
send you to penal servitude for five years.
The police, unaided,
might search for it in vain. The secret of
your ingenious little
hiding-place under the floor in that cor
ner might defy their
best efforts. They do not know that it will
only open when the
door of this room is locked and the third
and fifth sections of
the wainscoting on that wall are slid
upwards. But suppose they were anonymously informed——”
“And then found nothing there,” said Montgomery Bird,
“There would still be other suggestions that I could make,”
said the visitor.
He stood up abruptly.
“I hope you understand me,” he said. “Your offences are no
concern of mine, but they would be a great concern of yours if you were placed
in the dock to answer for them. They are also
too profitable for
you to be ready to abandon them—yet. You
will therefore pay me
one hundred pounds a week for as long
as I choose to demand it. Is that sufficiently
Montgomery Bird came out of his chair with a rush.
The bearded man was not disturbed. Only his right hand, in
overcoat pocket, moved slightly.
“My—er—elementary bluff is still waiting your investi
he said dispassionately, and the other stopped dead.
With his head thrust a little forward, he stared into the
lenses that masked the big man’s eyes.
“One day I’ll get you—you—swine.”
“And until that day, you will continue to pay me one
pounds a week, my dear Mr. Bird,” came the gentle
next contribution is already due. If it is not
troubling you too
He did not bother to complete the sentence. He simply
Bird went back to the desk and opened a drawer. He took
envelope and threw it on the blotter.
“Thank you,” said the visitor.
His fingers had just touched the envelope when the shrill
scream of a
bell froze him into immobility. It was not an
ordinary bell. It had
a vociferous viciousness about it that
eardrums—something like the magnified buzzing of
an infuriated wasp.
“What is that?”
“My private alarm.”
Bird glanced at the illuminated clock on the mantelpiece; and the
visitor, following the glance, saw that the dial had
The big man picked up the envelope and thrust it into his
“You will get me out of here,” he said.
Only a keen ear would have noticed the least fraying of the
his measured accents; but Montgomery Bird noticed
it, and looked at him
“If I didn’t——
“You would be foolish—very foolish,” said the visitor
Bird moved back, with murderous eyes. Set in one wall was
mirror; he put his hands to the frame of it and pushed
it bodily sideways in
invisible grooves, revealing a dark rec
And it was at that moment that Simon Templar, for his own
reasons, tired of his voluntary exile.
“Stand clear of the lift gates, please,” he murmured.
To the two men, wheeling round at the sound of his voice
pair of marionettes whose control wires have got mixed
up with a dynamo, it
seemed as if he had appeared out of the
fourth dimension. Just
for an instant. And then they saw the
open door of the capacious cupboard
“Pass right down the car, gents,” he murmured, encourag
He crossed the room. He appeared to cross it slowly, but
again, was an illusion. He had reached the two men
before either of them
could move. His left hand shot out and
fastened on the lapels
of the bearded man’s coat—and the
bearded man vanished. It was the most
startling thing that Mr.
Montgomery Bird had ever seen; but the Saint
did not seem to be aware that he was multiplying miracles with an easy grace
that would have made a Grand Lama look like a third-rate three-card man. He
calmly pulled the sliding mirror back into
place, and turned
“No—not you, Montgomery,” he drawled. “We may want
this evening. Back-pedal, comrade.”
His arm telescoped languidly outwards, and the hand at the
end of it
seized the retreating Mr. Bird by one ear, fetching
him up with a jerk
that made him squeak in muted anguish.
Simon steered him firmly but rapidly towards the open,cupboard.
“You can cool off in there,” he said; and the next sensations
impinged upon Montgomery Bird’s delirious conscious
ness consisted of a
lot of darkness and the sound of a key
turning in the
The Saint straightened his coat and returned to the centre
He sat down in Mr. Bird’s chair, put his feet on Mr. Bird’s
lighted one of Mr. Bird’s cigars, and gazed at the ceiling
expression of indescribable beatitude on his face; and
it was thus that Chief
Inspector Claud Eustace Teal found