The criminal cases of Inspector Elk—six novels in three volumes
There was a time, nostalgically familiar from the black and white British movies made from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s, when the detectives of the C. I. D, the men from Scotland Yard in plain clothes, were as recognisable to audiences as they were to the criminals they pursued. They were perennially portrayed as big, dour, doggedly stubborn men dressed in shabby and poorly fitting suits over which they wore a ‘never to be buttoned’ overcoat or trench style waterproof. To crown this effect each wore a squarely positioned black bowler or derby hat. All stereotypes have a foundation in fact and most certainly in fiction, for this is the description of the principal character of this special three volume Leonaur collection of detective fiction, featuring the complete cases of Detective Sergeant—soon to be Detective Inspector—Elk of the Yard. His creator, British author Edgar Wallace, was a prolific writer responsible for a number of memorable characters, among them the unforgettable J. G. Reeder, the Four Just Men and the Colonial administrator Sanders (whose exploits are all available as Leonaur collections), whose purpose was to bring the criminal class to their just desserts. Elk is less well-known and in him we have a different breed of ‘hero.’ Here is the detective for everyman, the kind of work-a-day ‘copper’ that all of Wallace’s audience would recognise. Elk is the policeman who in stories of more exotic detectives is a figure of fun, but who always pursues his quarry until, through the application of solid ‘police-work,’he gets his man.
Included in this first volume of Elk of the Yard are the case of ‘The Fellowship of the Frog’ and ‘The Joker’(also known as ‘The Colossus.’)
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The search which detectives had conducted at the railway termini had produced nine bags, all of which contained identical outfits. In every case there was a spare suit, a clean shirt, two collars, one tie, a Browning pistol with cartridges, a forged passport without photograph, the Annatio and money. Only in one respect did the grips differ. At Paddington the police had recovered one which was a little larger than its fellows, all of which were of the same pattern and size. This held the same outfit as the remainder, with the exception that, in addition, there was a thick pad of cheque forms, every cheque representing a different branch of a different bank. There were cheques upon the Credit Lyonnais, upon the Ninth National Bank of New York, upon the Burrowstown Trust, upon the Bank of Spain, the Banks of Italy and Roumania, in addition to about fifty branches of the five principal banks of England. Occupied as he had been, Elk had not had time to make a very close inspection, but in the morning he determined to deal seriously with the cheques. He was satisfied that inquiries made at the banks and branches would reveal different depositors; but the numbers might enable him to bring the ownership home to one man or one group of men.<br>
As the bags were brought in, they had been examined superficially and placed in Elk’s safe, and to accommodate them, the ordinary contents of the safe had been taken out and placed in other repositories. Each bag had been numbered and labelled with the name of the station from whence it was taken, the name of the officer who had brought it in, and particulars of its contents. These facts are important, as having a bearing upon what subsequently happened.<br>
Elk arrived at his office soon after ten o’clock, having enjoyed the first full night’s sleep he had had for weeks. He had, as his assistants, Balder and a detective-sergeant named Fayre, a promising young man, in whom Elk placed considerable trust. Dick Gordon arrived almost simultaneously with the detective chief, and they went into the building together.<br>
“There isn’t the ghost of a chance that we shall be rewarded for the trouble we’ve taken to trace these cheques,” said Elk, “and I am inclined to place more hope upon the possibility of the handbags yielding a few items which were not apparent at first examination. All these bags are lined, and there is a possibility that they have false bottoms. I am going to cut them up thoroughly, and if there’s anything left after I’m through, the Frogs are welcome to their secret.”<br>
In the office, Balder and the detective-sergeant were waiting, and Elk searched for his key. The production of the key of the safe was invariably something of a ritual where Elk was concerned. He gave Dick Gordon the impression that he was preparing to disrobe, for the key reposed in some mysterious region which involved the loosening of coat, waistcoat, and the diving into a pocket where no pocket should be. Presently the ceremony was through, Elk solemnly inserted the key and swung back the door.<br>
The safe was so packed with bags that they began to slide toward him, when the restraining pressure of the door was removed. One by one he handed them out, and Fayre put them on the table.<br>
“We’ll take that Paddington one first,” said Elk, pointing to the largest of the bags. “And get me that other knife, Balder.”<br>
The two men walked out into the passage, leaving Fayre alone.<br>
“Can you see the end of this, Captain Gordon?” asked Elk.<br>
“The end of the Frogs? Why, yes, I think I can. I could almost say I was sure.”<br>
They had reached the door of the clerk’s office and found Balder holding a murderous looking weapon in his hand.<br>
“Here it is—” he began, and the next instant Dick was flung violently to the floor, with Elk on top of him.<br>
There was the shrill shriek of smashed glass, a pressure of wind, and, through all this violence, the deafening thunder of an explosion.<br>
Elk was first to his feet and flew back to his room. The door hung on its hinges; every pane of glass was gone, and the sashes with them. From his room poured a dense volume of smoke, into which he plunged. He had hardly taken a step before he tripped on the prostrate figure of Fayre, and, stooping, he half-lifted and half-dragged him into the corridor. One glance was sufficient to show that, if the man was not dead, there seemed little hope of his recovery. The fire-bells were ringing throughout the building. A swift rush of feet on the stairs, and the fire squad came pelting down the corridor, dragging their hose behind them.