Thursday, June 22, 2017

"The Only Safe Plan When You Hold a Fortune on Your Knees Is To Trust Nobody"

"The Thieves' Terror."
By W. E. Norris (1847-1925).
First appearance: The Strand Magazine, April 1907.
Reprinted in The Strand Magazine (U.S.), May 1907.
Short short story (6 pages, with 4 illos by Sidney Paget).
Online at (HERE).

"They call me 'The Thieves' Terror,' I'm told; and between you and me, I don't know but what I've fairly earned the name."
Moving a fortune in diamonds safely from one continent to another has always been a knotty problem for those entrusted with the task, and it's no different with bailiff John Henderson:

   "It would have been permissible even to the one who was not fidgety by temperament
to feel some anxiety respecting the custody of the famous Alstonborough diamonds,
which would never have left England if their owner could have helped it. But as his wife
had accompanied him on a special mission of ceremony to an important Court, it had been thought necessary that she should exhibit herself there in full splendour, while certain engagements stood in the way of an immediate return to Alstonborough Castle. Thus it
came to pass that John Henderson, a huge, powerful, stolid fellow, who looked no
promising subject either for violence or cajolery, was given the precious cases,
together with very precise instructions for his guidance, during the long journey
which lay before him."

Even with the unexpected intervention of Inspector Barnes of Scotland Yard, a sleep-deprived Henderson will nevertheless be subjected to violence and cajolery; a wide-awake thief will fatally underestimate our bailiff's resolve; and a would-be biter will get bit . . .

Plothole: A thief would always check the swag before absconding with it, wouldn't he?

- A remarkably prolific author, William Edward Norris's writing career straddled the late 19th and early 20th centuries, generating reams of what is nowadays called "mainstream" copy, but like some other authors he sometimes strayed into crime fiction; see the Wikipedia book and story listing (HERE) for more.
- The Online Books Page offers rapid access to more of his works (HERE).

The bottom line:
   Let every eye negotiate for itself
   and trust no agent.
   — Claudio

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