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The Pit Prop Syndicate   By: (1879-1957)

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By Freeman Wills Crofts



1. The Sawmill on the Lesque 2. An Interesting Suggestion 3. The Start of the Cruise 4. A Commercial Proposition 5. The Visit of the Girondin 6. A Change of Venue 7. The Ferriby Depot 8. The Unloading of the Girondin 9. The Second Cargo 10. Merriman Becomes Desperate 11. An Unexpected Ally


12. Murder! 13. A Promising Clue 14. A Mystifying Discovery 15. Inspector Willis Listens In 16. The Secret of the Syndicate 17. "Archer Plants Stuff" 18. The Bordeaux Lorries 19. Willis Spreads His Net 20. The Double Cross



Seymour Merriman was tired; tired of the jolting saddle of his motor bicycle, of the cramped position of his arms, of the chug of the engine, and most of all, of the dreary, barren country through which he was riding. Early that morning he had left Pau, and with the exception of an hour and a half at Bayonne, where he had lunched and paid a short business call, he had been at it ever since. It was now after five o'clock, and the last post he had noticed showed him he was still twenty six kilometers from Bordeaux, where he intended to spend the night.

"This confounded road has no end," he thought. "I really must stretch my legs a bit."

A short distance in front of him a hump in the white ribbon of the road with parapet walls narrowing in at each side indicated a bridge. He cut off his engine and, allowing the machine to coast, brought it to a stand at the summit. Then dismounting, he slid it back on its bracket; stretched himself luxuriously, and looked around.

In both directions, in front of him and behind, the road stretched, level and monotonous as far as the eye could reach, as he had seen it stretch, with but few exceptions, during the whole of the day's run. But whereas farther south it had led through open country, desolate, depressing wastes of sand and sedge, here it ran through the heart of a pine forest, in its own way as melancholy. The road seemed isolated, cut off from the surrounding country, like to be squeezed out of existence by the overwhelming barrier on either flank, a screen, aromatic indeed, but dark, gloomy, and forbidding. Nor was the prospect improved by the long, unsightly gashes which the resin collectors had made on the trunks, suggesting, as they did, that the trees were stricken by some disease. To Merriman the country seemed utterly uninhabited. Indeed, since running through Labouheyre, now two hours back, he could not recall having seen a single living creature except those passing in motor cars, and of these even there were but few.

He rested his arms on the masonry coping of the old bridge and drew at his cigarette. But for the distant rumble of an approaching vehicle, the spring evening was very still. The river curved away gently towards the left, flowing black and sluggish between its flat banks, on which the pines grew down to the water's edge. It was delightful to stay quiet for a few moments, and Merriman took off his cap and let the cool air blow on his forehead, enjoying the relaxation.

He was a pleasant looking man of about eight and twenty, clean shaven and with gray, honest eyes, dark hair slightly inclined to curl, and a square, well cut jaw. Business had brought him to France. Junior partner in the firm of Edwards & Merriman, Wine Merchants, Gracechurch Street, London, he annually made a tour of the exporters with whom his firm dealt. He had worked across the south of the country from Cette to Pau, and was now about to recross from Bordeaux to near Avignon, after which his round would be complete. To him this part of his business was a pleasure, and he enjoyed his annual trip almost as much as if it had been a holiday.

The vehicle which he had heard in the distance was now close by, and he turned idly to watch it pass... Continue reading book >>

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