Within the wood of the Inspectors chair a bizarre eight legged little weevil of the type which had until recently infested Dale View instinctively noted the end of a discussion and scuttled out of the air into a whole in the pub’s mock wattle and daub wall. The vibration of the conversation was held on delicate membranes in it’s thorax and would provide interesting reading to it’s master, and creator.
Frank Walshingham knew his quarry. The Frenchman had a red file and he’d studied it firmly before taking this assignment. The Frog’s standard procedure in this kind of situation was to make for his safe house. So it was that Walshingham found himself in the industrial hinterland stood in a door way of a dark cramped terraced house his hand on untraceable 9mm Steyr automatic section C had lifted off an Bulgarian agent in the War. Thank god it was school day so the street wasn’t filled with screaming kids. A few of the local women had given him a funny look but it wasn’t the area where anyone would talk to the ‘bizzies’. He’d took the ferry from Liverpool, for old times sake, last time he’d been on it he had been ducking behind armoured plate as it rammed German held Zeebrugge. That long time ago, ’18, he wasn’t that green idealistic Royal Marine anymore – nobody who’d seen the Zanzibar Directive could ever be innocent again.
Walshingham’s time for contemplation was cut crucially short, and with a permanent end. The D’Huberres’s hardened hand had savate chopped him in neck before he realised what had happened. Then a swift grip of his gun hand and the Steyr was out of his grasp. But Walshingham had other problems as he fought to drag air through his crushed air pipe. The businesslike Alphonse shouldered the still dying Walshingham with a Gallic shrug and entered the rented terraced house.
He kicked the terraced door shut behind him. Walshingham was thrown on the bare wooden floor issuing a death rattle. In fluid move he locked the door and then staggered to the sink. The thigh hurt like hell but had stopped bleeding and it was clean wound. The experimental vest had deflected the shoulder destined round but left a terrific bruise. The room was a bare box with a couple of old orange crates with the potential to act as a chair or table. Kneeling at the sink the French man raised a loose floorboard – the radio! The British spies had lifted his radio! He raised himself to his feet as with a screech of tires and the clop of hobnailed boots the door exploded inwards. Three thickset heavy browed figures in thick reefer jackets and flat caps burst in as he reached for the pistol. Following them was a refined looking man in a camel coat and a shorter fatter fussy looking man with a trim military moustache in a blue woollen suit. Both had pistols fixed on him. He dropped the Steyr and raised his hands passively.
“This better be worth a blue THX115B,” said the little fat man, “the lads were due for some strike breaking down the docks.”
“This is the reason blue THX115B’s were invented.”
“If you say so Ministry man, doesn’t look like a Boche to me.” The man had tried to iron out his local accent, perhaps a recipient of a wartime commission, thought Wilson.
“Different times, different enemies, constables incapacitate him.”
Everything went black for D’Huberres in a collage of pain and hard calloused fists. “Somebody pick up Walshingham’s body.” was the last thing the Frenchman heard for a while.
The two London policemen parted company, each with their task to attend to.
Morris looked up the Fisherman’s address - 32 Dawlish Road, following a street map the local constabulary had provided him with. He passed from the coast, past a series of small shops, pleasant houses, the main cemetery dominated by a small but aggressively angular church and the main shopping district which was called Liscard but did not put the Inspector in mind of Cornwall in the slightest. He was surprised to find himself in a series of similar streets with identical and newly built three bedroom semi-detached houses. More the territory of solicitors clerk or a highly rated tradesman than a fisherman with a small boat. Interesting.
In the street directly outside the address was a motorcycle. A very new Norton motorcycle with a sidecar painted bright red. Again not typical small fisherman property. Checking he was presentable in the shine of the motorcycle the Inspector approached the door and gave the confident knock of officialdom everywhere.
The door was opened by a slender man who was not the typical image of salty sea dog. The flame red hair and light complexion was one thing, the outfit of smart blazer, shirt, tie and grey slacks was another. The man was also youthful mid-twenties as most.
“Hello, can I help?” He said hesitantly.
“I hope so, Mr Cavendish?”
“Which one? I’m sorry I don’t mean to be rude but me or my father?”
“Whichever ones the fisherman who works of the pier son, I guessing your father’s the man I’m after.”
“Well I help on the boat, but is this the shooting business?”
“Indeed.” With the locals capacity for gossip the exchange was probably being declared a St.Valentines’ Day massacre down the Docks, Clubs and Markets of the town.
“Come in he’s in the back.”
The hallway was well appointed. Very well appointed. Perhaps the Fisherman was getting himself into trouble with the ‘never-never.’ Morris silently admonished himself for jumping to conclusions. Wait and see.
Going past a door way to the front room Morris was shown into the back, a fine furnished dining room with a whole wall devoted to photographs. The stations of Empire, Singapore, Rangoon, Zanzibar, Cape Town, Stanley, Portsmouth, Malta, Gibraltar and the like. Not a single of the photographs of these exotic locations was dated after 1914. Smiling faces of white uniformed navy officers grinned through the sepia.
Glancing behind him Morris saw another wall of framed photos but a very different story. The rugged and shell blasted beeches of Gallipoli, the mud of Flanders and few of celebrations in a hospital. Fake smiles sat uneasily in the photographs mist on khaki clad men with thousand yard stares.
One face was constant and that face belonged to the man with the red tinged white hair who was rising to great him over a rather complicated model of the SS. Great Britain which was halfway constructed.
“Lieutenant Commander Jack Cavenish, Royal Navy, retired. I understand you’re a policeman.” The accent was local suppressed by a grand number of years trying to fit in with social superiors.
“That’s right Inspector Morris, of the Yard. Pleas-.”
“Good God! Not ‘Mighty’ Morris, not the man who caught the Surbition Strangler, crushed the Fenian bomb gang and cleared up the Greenway shooting.”
“The same. How hav-”
“Well I read the papers, and have something of an amateur’s interest in criminology. I was attached to the shore patrol in London for a little while before I got transferred to the Royal Navy Division. You were an inspiration. How long have you been here, and why a transfer to Wallasey Police?”
Morris had stored his breath for his next opportunity to interject. The man’s enthusiastic interruptions were becoming annoying. In his enthusiasm his accent was also beginning to slip.
“Thank you for your interest Commander Cavendish but I’m here to ask some questions and time is of the essense. We must attend to business.”
The man responded through straightening his back, pulling on the front of the black roll neck sweater he was wearing nodding while muttering “Of Course.” And sitting down looking at the Inspector attentively.
“Thank you Commander,” Morris paused as the young man left the room to a tiny kitchen a long side were the sound of the gas being lit and the kettle filled affirmed that cup of tea would be along shortly. “I understand you came across the incident while returning from sea?”
“Well not sea exactly. I’d just took the Jessica out to fire her engines, otherwise they’d be hell to play when the season starts.” The naval man chuckled.
“I didn’t know fishing was a seasonal activity?”
“Proper fishing isn’t. But who’d partake in proper fishing here, I mean the Irish Sea is rich enough but the Flyde coast men regard it as their bailiwick and they aren’t too particular about how they affirm their claims to the best fishing grounds. The Welsh fishermen regularly find themselves having missiles throw a deck and sometimes even boarded for a fist fight. I’m too old for that game. Not with my own countrymen.”
Morris sighed. “So what is it you do in that case.”
“Tourists man, tourists, take ‘em out for a bit of line fishing a good bank holiday you have up to a hundred thousand teeming that promenade and they can’t all be happy with ‘what the butlers saw,’ a crack at the arcades or a few pints down the front. Some of them want a bit more sea than seaside and the ferries are just floating omnibuses so I do charter trips for fishing or sight seeing. Know these waters like the back of my hand – worked for the Pilots office before deciding to rest on Navy Pension but a man has to do something. It keeps me active. Plenty of trade in the summer season - even in the week. Thank you son.” The gangly young man ha brought in a tray with tea in best china, and a selection of dainties – the stale garibaldis clashed with the comparative opulence of the house.
Morris could understand Taylor’s desire to use the shorthand of fisherman only too well.
“Could you describe what you observed as you were tying up the Jessica.” Morris took a proffered cup of tea ‘Thank you.’
“Easy enough.” The Commander waved his son out.
“Well I was tying up Jessica. Taking my time about it, wasn’t in any particular rush. I could hear shouting - an American fella, Bostonian I’d reckon, Massachusetts any way, a terrible stop – hate the English y’know stock full of Irish, not that here isn’t of-”
“Commander please, the night in question.” The Commanders rabbiting about Morris’ past and the Irish had reminded him of a possible contact, he stored it way for future use.
A “bye Dad!” And the front door closing confirmed this was not interesting the junior Cavendish at all.
Cavendish Senior continued “Well he was arguing at length with a local lass. But he was on the Police boat, which I thought was a bit rum, so I kept watch. The gal was that dizzy bint Charlotte from Dale View. On Tuesdays I cash up at the same time as Mrs Merriweather, we share bankers, and if you knew the trouble that girl had caused that good woman.” Morris fixed the Commander with a stare normally reserved for old women and soho puffs as he took a slurp of tea and wiped his moustache.
“Well I digress don’t I, yes it was Charlotte sure enough the young Jezebel, I had the impression from her side at least she was scared and it was something of an affair of the heart. The American seemed not to feel that way. Callous bastard you lowly born colonial – especially towards the fairer sex.” The Commander chopped the air with the blade of his palm for emphasis over his cup of tea.
“Well I had Paris leave in ’17 and the first Yanks were there and you wouldn’t belie-”
“About the night in question if you please.” Morris arched an eyebrow in frustration.
“Well then his fella turns up.” The cup of tea was placed next to the model. “I’d say he was French. At least from the accent but there was something else there - a touch of the tar brush. The man was either not metropolitan France born, well travelled or spent a lot of time with non-native French speakers. There was a bit of a stand off so I went and got the cricket bat I keep in the cabin for unruly parties in case it turned nasty – next I hear a splash and some shots. Well I’m no coward but I’m not getting shot for an affair of the heart between a Frog and yank. So I made my self scare and contacted the local constabulary.”
Morris drained the tea. “Anything about the splash and shots?”
“Why yes – the splash was something small if I hadn’t been a sea-going man all my life I wouldn’t have heard it over the surf of the sea, but you tune that background noise out – like you Londoners and traffic I expect.” Morris nodded a lifetime of observation and enquiry meant he’d encounter the phenomena many times.
“As to the shots – three were from a heavy revolver most likely a Webley, the other sounded like a Luger to me, had the familiar crack of a 9mm automatic anyroad.” The gunning of a motorcycle outside punctuated the end of the sentence.
“Good lad, hopes to enter the Tourist Tournament this year if he afford the fare to Douglas. After that the police boat went off.”
“Well we’ve informed the Navy so they should be able to catch him.”
“With what? There might be a Navy ship in the Irish Sea if your lucky but it’s a heck of a lot of water. Was the man a sailor?”
“He’d had some experience.”
“I hope for his and Charlottes sake he knows these waters.”
Morris didn’t like the ladle of threat mixed into the man’s voice.
It was off-season and the stout sun burnt old man had paid a king’s ransom for the deep cellar what hotelier would have refused? Certainly not the John Birant manager of the Hotel Victoria – that payment together with the Dancing Marathon in the main ballroom meant he might well have two weeks at his cottage on Anglesey this year.
The dancing marathon also severed Sir Archibald purposes – between the band, the clomping feet of the clumsy working class couples and the chatter of flirtatious spectators nothing should penetrate the outside world from the deep cellar dug deep into the Cheshire sandstone.
These same factors did nothing for D’Huberres strapped to a hard leather chair and awoken by ether. He was told what was to be done to him, had it done and then was told why it was done broken by the same patient questioning.
For a major international waterway the grey waters of Liverpool Bay can be cruel, especially to smaller craft. The currents are strong and need local knowledge to be able to navigate. Had it been Ostende Kenton would have had that knowledge in abundance, but it wasn’t. In the urgency to escape the Frenchman he hadn’t noticed that the boat was coming under a firm tugging undertow which had proved impossible to master in the small police craft.
Rather than the original plan of following the coast and secreting himself on a small Welsh coastal village before the heat passed Kenton was now fighting to manage boat over the sea squall and retching noises coming from Charlotte. ‘Be just like the dame to go over the side, and I’ll be stuck for murder.’ thought Kenton. He had lost land through the poor grey light and no idea of his position. He had managed to turn the boat occasionally but the current wouldn’t release it’s grip against the petty churning of the pitiful engines. Probably bought from the lowest tender. All Kenton could hope for was to follow the flow and hope the weather would hold till he reached Ireland or better yet the Isle of Mann.
It was in this forlorn plight that Pilot Officer Marcus Kent noticed the tiny craft in the swell of the unforgiving Irish Sea. He manoeuvred his ‘stick and string’ Swordfish biplane into a shallow dive, bashed the side of his open cockpit to gain his Observer’s attention and pointed in the direction. Flight Sergeant Wallace arched round in his chair and thrust a ‘thumbs up’ alongside his pilot’s head once he spotted small vessel pass under the port wing.
Charlotte noticed the plane first. “Rescue! Rescue!” she screamed shrilly. And then stopped. Suddenly.
“Kenton why has it got a big oblong bomb under it?”
Wallace located the Very pistol and fired a red flare into the sky – hopefully the remainder of their flight would be able to see it and combine on this position. The Ministry men had been very clear the Bolshevik gangster and his moll was making aware with secrets essential to the country and had to be stopped. The Irish couldn’t be trusted to hand him over, the Navy where to slow so it was down to the Royal Air Force specifically 273 Squadron, Coastal Command, RAF Woodvale, to save the day.
Kenton clocked the Swordfish and it flew over head, he wasn’t a naval man but he recognised an air-launched torpedo when he saw one. The Very pistol shot also worried him – it didn’t mean a thing to him so it must have been for some one else. In fact shortly he realised it was at least six other people as three more biplanes arrived and began to circle the small wooden speck in a churning carpet of grey.
“Kenton why have they all got oblong bomb thingeys underneath?”
“It ain’t to say hello nicely sister.”
“But they’re going now.”
One Swordfish had darted low and quick back towards the English shore. With unreliable radios it was the surest way to get in touch with the Navy and ensure a destroyer was here later. The other three were arching way slowly. Then they gradually started to turn to face the boat and flew towards it in a line astern and flew low and level towards the craft.
P/O Kent was first up to the ockie and wanted it to be over as he gently nudged the resisting Swordfish online with the target. The Ministry man had been very clear ‘torpedo the boat, note it’s position – do not, repeat, do not strafe it with machine gun fire.’
“Charlotte grab hold of me.”
“Now Kenton? You are naughty. What would the pilo-”
He grabbed her - if nothing else he might need the extra warmth and ballast.
Kent released the Torpedo - a true aim. He flipped a thumb up to his Observer and Flight mates and broke off to let the following planes see his accuracy and waste their ammo if they wanted.
“They fired!” Screamed Charlotte, “They’re English!”
“Well spotted Sherlock” roared Kenton and he threw a bundle of himself and Charlotte over the side as the Torpedo’s bristling wake rammed towards the boat.
The icy grip of the Irish Sea fired their already adrenaline fired senses then the crushing wake of the torpedoes explosion pushed them into unconsciousness.
Taylor walked up the steps of Manor Road Police Station and flashed his warrant card at the smartly dressed if young sergeant behind the desk.
“Alright son, I’m here on the Kenton case what’s the business with the Admiralty - found your runaway dinghy yet?”
The Sergeant visibly took a deep breath and gripped the counter with white knuckles.
“Come into the station Detective Sergeant Taylor if you please.” And he moved to open the door for officers.
Taylor was allowed in to a have a sharp whisper in his ear.
“And keep ya fucking voice down you fucking dense cockney wanker – the fucking Lord Mayors here to examine the loss of the bleeding boat !”
Handy as he was when push came to shove Taylor was not about to worsen the already ropey situation by teaching this juvenile sergeant a lesson in manners. He did make a mental note of the fellows number for a bit of post case revenge though.
“Sorry Mate, anyway any news?”
The Sergeant beckoned him down a corridor and into a small office once in side he gestured to an ashtray while retrieving a packet of Senior Service from his breast pocket.
“Only other peoples, but yes ta.” Taylor could unlike many people take and leave tobacco but he felt this was the most diplomatic course of action. Both men ignited the course tobacco and inhaled.
“Right the Admiralty can’t do a frigging thing. Apparently Britannia may rule the waves but hereabouts she just gets in the way of the merchant traffic. But.”
“But?” Taylor mirrored the Sergeant taking a drag.
“But the Air Ministry say they have some aeroplanes looking for the boat and your suspects. Have since this morning. Why didn’t you tell us you rang it through?”
Taylor considered his options. Reading the ribbons on the Sergeants uniform he could see a George Cross and a King’s Policeman medal but no military decorations. He decided he could trust the man to a point.
“We didn’t ring it through, we’ve been lumbered with some shifty Home Office wankers and they keep pulling tricks like this.”
The two men took parallel drags before “Wankers,” issued out of them in stereo.
The younger Sergeant continued “Well they’re planning on shadowing the sole pride of Wallasey police’s fleet and radioing the position – if they can find it. When Kenton makes land fall with the our delicious Charlotte we’ll call the local plod and they’ll get nicked.”
“What if he makes to Ireland?”
“From experience the good men of the Garda will promise to do everything they can for us while treating Kenton and Charlotte to Guinness and oysters and the bus fare to Dublin all the while saying ‘good on ya’ for upsetting the English. Mind you that little boat isn’t going to be too hot on the open sea the Harbour Master is radioing all recently departed and incoming ships he can with a description – we might be lucky, a ship’s master may co-operate if he rescues them.”
Taylor had an idea of the answer from his own experience in London. “But what are the chances of that?”
“Low and lower if your Kenton is a good liar.” A final drag killed the capston cigerette.
The silence was broken by the anguished disgust of local officialdom. Taylor heard the word ‘rate-payers’, ‘expense’ and ‘election’ and imagined some superintendent getting it in the neck.
Taylor held out a hand.
The men shook hands.
In the light grey of Exchange Flags the senior London policeman tried to look inconspicuous in the flurry of tea break taking office workers and skiving local politicians and apparatchniks. Behind him was the neo-classical beauty of the blackened stone town hall of Liverpool he circled a round a gothic monument to Nelsons Victory of Trafalgar all hooded death and ‘England expects every man to do his duty.’ Morris inspected his watch, ‘where was McCavener?’ In the light of Cavendish awaking a deep buried memory Morris had made a few calls and then crossed the river taking a bus through the Wallasey Tunnel.
A stout red faced and red haired figure blundered through one of the high arches which flanked a more recent monument to the dead of Flanders and Jutland which perched in an alcove opposite it’s century more senior predecessor. He was purposeful in this walk to the point of rude, his black pin-stripe had seen better days and the bowler hat was somewhat weathered. Suddenly his stiff legged walk stopped being quite so purposeful his glided past a newspaper man and purchased an Echo and began to read it, distracted by the back page and narrowly avoided clashing with Morris.
“I’m terribly sorry sir” the voice ringed out cloaked in a thick Northern Irish brogue.
“For God sake Tom why the amateur dramatics?”
“Shut it ya thick English bookworm” spat out the Ulsterman, “come with me.”
They were taken out of the light grey square towards the riverfront and found themselves in a small pub ‘The Pig and Whistle’ surrounded by buildings packed with shops selling admiralty charts and administering maritime insurance. The crowd was a sprinkling of office workers over a base of docks foremen and other upward mobile manual movers.
The rouged figure of McCavener tipped a nod at the barman who opened a door leading to the upstairs. A private room was laid out with a couple of ploughman’s’ and a brace of bottled Guinness for both the men.
“Remember how much of the black stuff we got through stamping out Fenian bastards in the War, Morris lad?” belted out McCavener in double time as he prised a bottle with an opener attached to his watch chain.
“Tom, it’s good to see you but this is strictly business.” Morris shuddered at the thought of splashed teeth and blood in the backrooms of Kilburn nicks.
“Ah it’s always business for you Morris lad? Never passion, never King and Country.” The pronunciation of country suggested a ladies more private areas.
“This is different.” Escaped from Morris’ clenched teeth.
“Aye I think it might be at that Morris lad.” He poured a Guinness professionally in a pint ‘sleeve’. ‘But you’d be disappointed if you think me the man you knew then.’
Morris couldn’t answer that and didn’t.
“I’ve spoken to a few of the lads in Special Branch – a blue THX115B issued and a snatch performed in the industrial part of Wallasey a place called Poulton while you were busy with ya old colonels and seaside postcards in New Brighton. It was on a Frenchman. The ignorant wacker bastards thought he was a Hun. Only fucking good for breaking Docker’s heads these taigs and skirt wearing apes they have here.”
“Who requested it?”
“A man called Wilson, part of your entourage Morris lad?”
“Could be Tom, but the less I tell you the better off you’d be.”
Tom sipped his Guinness in sullen silence for a moment. The glass returned to the table with a sharp clink.
“Come on lad, have a drink and trust old Tom.”
Another stronger glup of Guinness.
“Ya think I’m spent do ya Tom? McCavener the Terror of Kilburn. Ya think I’ve gone soft or something Morris lad?”
“Not soft no.”
“Same as the sleek public school arseholes who put me in charge of those black and tan’s? What was it that fucker Henready called me ‘a blugeon rather than a scalpel? Ya think I can’t hack it? Some fucking Fenians have a go and you think I’ve lost it? Pack him off to be patronised by wacker taigs filing papers on trade unionists and Chink opium dens till retirement” The Ulsterman slammed his left hand on his left shin to a resounding clink as his heavy hand the wooden prothestic.
“Thanks for the information Tom. I’m sorry, I can’t let you get involved.” Morris stood up to go.
“No fucking can’t! You won’t!”
“No I won’t Tom, thanks for the information but I never enjoyed it and I won’t work with man who did.” Morris made for the door.
“It was for King and Country ya ignorant London wanker! King and Country!”
Morris glided through the door dodging the pelted half drank pint of the black stuff.
McCaverner made sure Morris had gone down the stairs and had exited the pub by peaking through the heavy curtains – he picked up the phone and dialled.
“George Street Dim Sum House,” said a sing-song Chinese accent.
“I’m not on board – he didn’t buy it.” He replaced the receiver angrily.
The Flying plane took off from the small Island in the middle of the Dee Estuary. The proper code word has been radioed from Woodvale and now the Ministry would see what – if anything could be salvaged from the icy grip of the Irish Sea.
The frisky ginger Canadian pilot took command of the plane. They had little light but the three ministry men in the back had excellent night vision and they had the exact position of the sinking. They also would all listen to the pilot on the matter of the aircraft, flying and what was and was not possible. For that reason alone they’re unique in the ministry. They sat in the back cabin hunched in reefer jackets and flat caps – two cradling shotguns and the third the bulk of a Lewis gun. No body knew that their pilot had the very likeness of a certain Inspector Morris romantic Scandinavian fantasies.
Goodwood had checked the foreign person register and the few Frenchmen in it didn’t fit the age of the suspect. He’d advised Taylor of the forty-three B & Bs I the town and the major hotels and together borrowing a squad car they’d left to check the registers. Goodwood was confident that local hoteliers could tell a Frenchman – with a major seaport a mile over the Mersey foreigners we’re the rarity they normally were outside the Smoke. Taylor had suggested phoning the Liverpool force to check but Goodwood took the car past the River’s bank and as Taylor looked at the congested river packed with merchantmen and banana boats queuing to enter docks he thought better of it.
There was no joy in the Guest houses and by the time Taylor and Goodwood had finished it was seven O’Clock.
Morris had been busy. Very busy. With Kenton and Kenton Junior leads dried up he’d decided to check on Sir Archibald’s caterers. A quick check at the local land registry and the Chamber of Commerce had confirmed the Bengal Lancer had been a seaside café until six months ago but had been bought by a Mr Chandra Sahib. A few calls to Met friends who wouldn’t log the call confirmed that Mr Sahib of the correct age and appearance had arrived in the UK nine months before that. Lancaster House in return to the appropriate codes also confirmed he had died shortly after from a liver infection in a charity hospital in London.
“Nice to know our spies are as original as the other lot.” Muttered Morris after having returned the receiver.
Morris collected his coat and hat from the porter at the Land Registry and returned to Dale View.
The Hotel Victoria’s band had taken a break and as a result Sir Archibald was enjoying a subtle pipe while Wilson was wiping the blood and bile off the leather chair. No body was enjoying the break as much as Alphonse D’Huberres he was aware he was on the point of breaking, and not far from dying. It was a case of which came first.
“We may as well finish for the night.” Said Sir Archibald “if the Frenchman does get a night’s worth of blood transfusion he’ll be no good to us at all.”
“What about the noise?” said Wilson.
“This marathon dancing fad – the dancing can last four or more days we’ll have plenty of cover tomorrow don’t worry.” Sir Archibald picked satchel with surprising dexterity and suspended it from his left shoulder.
To everyone’s surprise the mahogany knight reached into a whole in the wall and twisted his arm and a section of wall opened up. He grabbed a torch and beckoned.
“A little secret of this place – used to be second to Cornwall for wrecking and smuggling. These tunnels belonged to ‘Mother Redcap’ the Al Capone of her day. The Ministry happens to have the excise charts come, I have a room for our guest.” D’Huberres was suspended between Singh and Wilson and carried through the portal into a tunnel. It was lit, poorly, but lit by a series of electric lights nailed into the wall with visible wiring attaching them. Wilson wondered if the inhabitants of New Brighton would notice the increase to their bills in the coming months.
After seventy yards they came to alcove off to the right inside was an oubliette some fifteen feet deep with at the base a bunk laid out with blankets and a supply of blood, of the appropriate type. Singh jumped down and took the lowered form of the Frenchman strapped him to the bed and attached the blood supply with practised ease. Before exiting the sunken chamber by means of a rope ladder.
Sir Archibald gripped the top of Singh’s arm in a manner that made Wilson feel a little uncomfortable.
“Excellent Singh. Wilson let’s show you your quarters’ Wilson had guessed that the small carved space opposite was his from the hammock lying between nails in the walls, the bowl of water and the bedpan. All you need man – here.”
Wilson took the proffered satchel - a thermos, a copy of the times a torch, an old copy of the Times and Sporting Life, an apple and some of Mrs Merriweather’s ham sandwiches, identifiable as her handiwork even through the greaseproof paper. Somebody should tell that woman that copious amounts of butter are not a substitute for filling. When this job was finished Wilson would not recommend the catering of the Northwest.
“Thank you Sir.” Wilson hoped the Frenchman would break on the morrow, he didn’t fancy a second night in these caves.
Morris was enjoying a pipe while watching the trickle of surrendering Marathon dancers leaving the Hotel Victoria sore footed and exhausted. Taylor dropped off by Goodwood waved and wandered over.
“The Frenchman’s not in these parts and the airforce are trying to find the boat no Navy boats around Sir.”
“The Frenchman was picked up by Liverpool Special branch with Wilson but we don’t have any way of finding where he is.”
“So we’re buggered then Sir.”
“No we must have missed something - we’ll need to look over the original case papers. There has to be a lead somewhere. I also know for a fact the owner of the Bengal Lancer is somehow involved with Sir Archibald.”
“Really – how?”
“Checked the records the man died down south before buying the restaurant.”
“Well blow me. Oh Sir, found a local man we may be able to trust.”
It was Morris’ turn to be surprised “Really?”
“A Sergeant Goodwood, uniform no liking for the Ministry and knows the area well.”
“Excellent we might need him” Morris finished the pipe.
“I’d love to know where that Frenchman was he’s bound to know something behind the original murder – what or whoever sent him after Kenton was more than likely the source of Junior’s demise.”
Deep in thought the two London detectives caught the dying light of the day as the leant on the wall of Dale View. How slovenly thought Mrs Merriweather and decided to admonish them – that Inspector’s eyes had been getting too familiar as it was.
She opened the front door.
“Gentlemen, please don’t lean on the walls – you’re as bad as Sir Archibald sneaking about for extra lodgings without a bye or leave.”
“Really” said the Inspector casually and obeying Mrs Merriweather, years of ‘happy’ marriage and got him used to a female voice’s command.
“Why would he move out Ma’am?” asked a suddenly courteous Taylor who had also instinctually obeyed the instruction.
“I don’t know but I accidentally saw him chatting to the Manager of the Hotel Victoria and they exchanged money.”
“I think we should have this out with right now Ma’am we have no desire to swap lodgings, Taylor!”
“Eh?” Queried Taylor.
“Maybe Sir Archibald has other guests let’s investigate.” Morris left.
Taylor put two and two together and followed Morris past fading and defeated Marathon Dancers – including the younger Cavendish.
Sir Archibald and Singh had left the deep cellar called in to a room Sir Archibald had rented on the ground floor of the hotel. They showered and changed tenderly. Leaving the hotel via the pick up a swift brandy they were confronted by a flustered looking Morris and Taylor scouring the area filled with aching competitors and other youngsters.
“Inspector, care for a drink Mr Singh and I am about to retire to the Bengal Lancer.”
“Thanks but no thanks Sir Archibald. Nice place this,”
“Indeed, so much nicer that some of the smaller hostelries hereabouts.”
‘So the old man was putting some cards on the table’ though Taylor, he wondered how the boss would react.
“If you say so, no news on Kenton I’m afraid.”
“Hmmmm Unfortunate, we must have a meeting tomorrow and see how we can go forward, come on Singh.”
“Oh one thing Sir Archibald, where’s Wilson? He owes me a fiver.” Chipped in Taylor.
“Speaking to London – I’ll remind him of the debt when I next see him. Thank you gentlemen.” With that the elderly agent and his escort left the weary dancers and frustrated policemen.
The pain receded. Alphonse fought and thought against unconsciousness with all his being. He had considered teasing out the supply of blood with his teeth and defeating his enemies through suicide. But no - He was no fanatical oriental and why deny himself revenge. While Wilson snored he had artfully dislocated various joints to escape his bonds now he waited, his captors had bound his wounds at least and he felt stronger thanks to the blood. He knew places he’d be safe to stay over the river. Taking the tubing from the container of blood he checked it – the rubber wasn’t too elastic it would do as a garrotte. He very quietly moved the bunk and leant it almost vertical against the wall. He’d have one chance to do this.
One. “Hey! Hey! English! Hey!”
Wilson stirred. What did that Frenchman want?
“What you after Frenchie? Haven’t you had enough?”
“I want to tell all, now so I am at peace.”
Wilson threw himself from the Hammock grabbed a note pad and looked over the side of the Frenchman’s hole.
NOW With all his strength D’Huberres ran at and up near vertical bunk propelled – looping the rubber pipe over him like a skipping rope he caught Wilson’s neck as he descended dragging him down. The French master assassin rolled out of the way of the plummeting secret service man who landed with a crack of ribs and break of nose. Quickly before shock subsided and allowed the Englishman’s strength to tell Alphonse straddled his back and pulled the pipe tight across Wilson’s plaid throat. While he tried to struggle it was too late and after a short time D’Huberres released the pipe leaving Wilson with a purple bloated head like an ugly boil.
He took the Englishman’s clothes – a loose fit but adequate and now with time on his side made a patient but successful clamber out of the Chamber. Backtracking he made it out of the deep cellar. He had a bone to pick with a certain English spymaster and he knew from slips in conversation were that arrogant ros-bif ate.
Taylor and Morris were about to return to their beds when they saw an often described figure pass by them in the corridor. They both stopped looked at each other, then at the staggering figure in a too large but strangely familiar camel coat.
The Whisperer returned “That’s our Frenchman.”
“Looks like it, Sir, but he’s been bashed about something rotten.”
“We’ll tail him. Come on.”
The followed him out on to the main road the Hotel shared with Dale View were the weak form hanged a left and half walked half tripped down the road, after a few hundred yards. He stopped and crossed over to the familiar and half empty premises of the Bengal Lancer. Morris and Taylor where both about thirty yards behind him as he pulled a .455 Webley revolver from the Camel coat pocket and released a salvo of shots at the two figures in the window. They both broke into a run as the window of the ‘Lancer shattered and the figure in the oversized coat collapsed.
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