Lee shook a friendly fist at me as I entered late. I no longer lived in Edinburgh and had caught a train there from my new home in Kirkcaldy. Lee opened the door into the dining room, and ushered the four of us – Jessop, Arkright, Taylor and myself – in to dinner.
We dined well as usual, Lee was pretty silent during the meal. At the end we took our wine and cigars to our usual positions, and Lee – having got himself comfortable in his big chair – began without any preliminary:
“I’ve just got back from London,” he said. “And I thought you’d be interested to hear my news. Besides, I fancy I shall see the thing clearer, after I have told it all out straight. I must tell you this, though, at the beginning – up to the present moment, I have been utterly and completely stumped. I have tumbled upon one of the most peculiar cases of haunting – or devilment of some sort – that I have come across. Now listen.
“I have been spending the last few weeks at The Denizen, a luxury apartment block built by Taylor Wimpey in Golden Lane, just inside the border between the City of London and Islington. I got an email about a month ago from a Mr. Jason Chan, who it seemed had bought an investment property in the building, and on staying in it for a few days while holidaying in London, found that he had purchased a very peculiar piece of real estate.
“When I got there, Chan met me at the Thistle Hotel on Central Street. He and his brother Jackie where staying there because they couldn’t stand The Denizen. They had with them an American, who seemed to be half-servant and half-companion.
“We went to eat in the hotel restaurant, and Jason told me all about the trouble whilst we were at table. It is most extraordinary, and different from anything that I have had to do with; though that Buzzing Case was very queer, too.
“Jason began right in the middle of his story. ‘My flat in The Denizen,’ he said, ‘has got a most infernal whistling in it, sort of haunting it. The thing starts any time, you never know when, and it goes on until it frightens you. It’s not ordinary whistling and it isn’t the wind. Wait till you hear it.’
” ‘We’re all carrying guns,’ his brother Jackie said; and slapped his coat pocket.
” ‘As bad as that?’ I said; and Jason nodded. ‘It may be soft,’ he replied; ‘but wait till you’ve heard it. Sometimes I think it’s some infernal thing, and the next moment, I’m just as sure that someone’s playing a trick on me.’
” ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘What is to be gained?’
” ‘You mean,’ he said, ‘that people usually have some good reason for playing tricks as elaborate as this. Well, I’ll tell you. There’s a lady in this province, by the name of Miss Chloe, who’s going to be my wife, this day two months. She’s more beautiful than they make them, and so far as I can see, I’ve just stuck my head into a Cockney’s hornet’s nest. There’s about a score of hot young Cockney’s been courting her these two years gone, and now that I’m come along and cut them out, they feel raw against me. Do you begin to understand the possibilities?’
” ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Perhaps I do in a vague sort of way; but I don’t see how all this affects your investment flat?’
” ‘Like this,’ he said. ‘When I’d fixed it up with Miss Chloe, I looked out for a place which would be a good investment but would also enable us to come back to London without having to stay with her folk, who live in social housing. and so I bought an apartment in The Denizen. Afterward, I told her — one evening during dinner, that I’d decided to invest in a Taylor Wimpey apartment off-plan. And then she asked me whether I wasn’t afraid it would be jerry-built since that company had a reputation for cutting corners and poor workmanship. I told her that the literature I’d been given suggested my luxury apartment would be constructed to the highest possible specifications. There were some of her men friends present, and I saw a smile go round. I found out, after a bit of questioning, that the witches from something called the Cripplegate Coven had cursed the development, and that a plague pit had been disturbed when Taylor Wimpey were laying the foundations of the building.
” ‘Well, the chaps started to bait me a bit, and offered to take bets after dinner that I’d not stay six days in the place once I was able to move in. I looked once or twice to Miss Chloe, so as to be sure I was understanding their rhyming slang and not missing a joke; but I could see that she didn’t take it as a joke at all. Partly I think because there was a bit of a sneer in the way the men were tackling me, and partly because she really believes there is something in this yarn of the witches cursing the development and the plague pit being disturbed.
” ‘However, after dinner, I did what I could to even things up with the others. I nailed all their bets and screwed them down hard and safe. I guess some of them are going to be hard hit, unless I lose; which I don’t mean to. That’s why I’ve got you here. I want you to help me get through staying six days and nights in my investment property. That’s all there is to it.’
” ‘Not quite,’ I told him. ‘All that I know, is that you have bought a ghost home that is in some way “queer,” and that you’ve been doing some betting. Tell me something about the whistling?’
” ‘Oh, that!’ said Jason; ‘that started the second night we stayed in it. I’d had a good look round the entire building, in the daytime, as you can understand; for the talk up at Miss Chloe’s place had made me wonder a bit. But it seems no different from the other luxury apartments in the new building, and not half as spooky as the private cinema and games room in the basement.
‘The whistling started about ten o’clock, on the second night, as I said. Jackie and I were in the entrance to the block, when we heard an awfully queer whistling, coming from our floor. We’d just come back from eating in the Jugged Hare on Chiswell Street.
” ‘That’s that blessed ghost!’ I said to Jackie, and we rushed upstairs to have a look. I tell you, even as we dug along the corridor, it took me a bit in the throat, it was so beastly queer. It was a sort of tune, in a way; but more as if a devil or some rotten thing were laughing at you, and going to get round at your back. That’s how it makes you feel.
‘When we got to the door, we didn’t wait but rushed it open – and then I tell you the sound of the thing fairly hit me in the face. Jackie said he got it the same way – sort of felt stunned and bewildered. We looked all round and soon got so nervous, we just cleared out, and I locked the door.
‘We went to The Shakespeare on Goswell Road and had a stiff peg each. Then we got fit again and began to think we’d been nicely had. So we took baseball bats, and went out into the pocket park at the back of The Denizen, thinking after all it must be some of these confounded Cockney’s working the ghost-trick on us. But there was not a leg stirring.
‘We went back into The Denizen, and walked around its corridors, and then paid another visit to my flat. But we simply couldn’t stand it. We fairly ran out and locked the door again. I don’t know how to put it into words; but I had a feeling of being up against something that was rottenly dangerous. You know! We’ve carried our guns ever since.
‘Of course we had a real turn out of the apartment next day and we even hunted round The Denizen but there was nothing queer. And now I don’t know what to think, except that the sensible part of me tells me that it’s some plan of these wild Cockney’s to try to take a rise out of me.’
“‘Done anything since?’ I asked him.
“‘Yes,’ he said, ‘watched outside of the door of the flat at nights, and chased round Fortune Street Park which is opposite, and sounded the walls and floor of The Denizen. We’ve done everything we could think of and it’s beginning to get on our nerves; so we sent for you – Lee The Ghost Hunter!’
“By this, we had finished eating. So we walked to The Denizen, Jason suddenly called out: ‘Ssh! Hark!’
“We were instantly silent, listening. Then I heard it, an extraordinary hooning whistle, monstrous and inhuman, coming from several floors up from where we were standing in the street.
” ‘By Baigujing!’ said Jason; ‘and it’s scarcely dark yet! Come along.’
“In a few moments, we through the entrance lobby and in the lift. Jason turned into a long corridor and we followed. The sound seemed to fill all the passage as we drew near, until I had the feeling that the whole air throbbed under the power of some wanton Immense Force – a sense of an actual taint, as you might say, of monstrosity all about us.
“Jason unlocked the door, then giving it a push with his foot, jumped back and drew his revolver. As the door flew open, the sound beat out at us, with an effect impossible to explain to one who has not heard it – with a certain, horrible personal note in it; as if in there in the darkness you could picture Jason’s luxury investment apartment rocking and creaking in a mad, vile glee to its own filthy piping and whistling and hooning. To stand there and listen, was to be stunned by Realization. It was as if someone showed you the mouth of a vast pit suddenly, and said: That’s Hell. And you knew that they had spoken the truth. Do you get it, even a little bit?
“I stepped back a pace into the corridor and looked quickly round. Jason and his brother joined me, and the American came up at the back. I was deafened with the shrill, piping hoon of the whistling. Then, clear in my ear, something seemed to be saying to me: ‘Get out of here – quick! Quick! Quick!’
“As you chaps know, I never neglect that sort of thing. Sometimes it may be nothing but nerves, but as you will remember, it was just such a warning that saved me in the Grey Dog Case, and in the Yellow Finger Experiments; as well as other times. Well, I turned sharp round to the others: ‘Out!’ I said. ‘For God’s sake, out quick.’ And in an instant I hurried them over to the lift.
“There came an extraordinary yelling scream into the hideous whistling and then, like a clap of thunder, an utter silence. Jason walked back to his flat, slammed the front door and locked it. I looked round at the others. They were pretty white, and I imagine I must have looked that way too. And there we stood a moment, silent.
” ‘Let’s go back to the Thistle Hotel and have some whisky,’ said Jason at last in a voice he tried to make ordinary. He led the way. I was the back man and I know we all kept looking over our shoulders. When we got to his hotel room, Jason passed the bottle round. He took a drink and slapped his glass down on to the table. Then sat down with a thud.
” ‘That’s a lovely thing to have in your luxury apartment with you, isn’t it!’ he said. And directly afterward: ‘What on earth made you hustle us all out like that, Lee?’
” ‘Something seemed to be telling me to get out, quick,’ I said. ‘Sounds a bit silly, superstitious I know, but when you are meddling with this sort of thing, you’ve got to take notice of queer fancies and risk being laughed at.’
“I told him then about the Grey Dog business and he nodded a lot to that. ‘Of course,’ I said, ‘this may be nothing more than those would-be rivals of yours playing some funny game but, personally, though I’m going to keep an open mind, I feel that there is something beastly and dangerous about this thing.’
“We talked for a while longer, and then Jason suggested billiards, which we played in a pretty half-hearted fashion, and all the time cocking an ear to for sounds that might travel all the way up Central Street from the bottom of Golden Lane. But none came and later after coffee, Jason suggested early bed and a thorough overhaul of his luxury apartment on the morrow.
“Jason had booked me a room in the Thistle Hotel but before I left for it, I picked up the key to his Denizen flat without anyone noticing, and slipped it in my pocket.