BM Book 1 – Chapter 13 – A Discovery

The constable surveyed the small group. What he could see was five men-about-town in evening dress and a very disheveled, very wet young woman and there was no doubt in his mind that the men had carried out a prank on the woman which had gone horribly wrong with almost fatal consequences. There was no way he was going to take any nonsense from these young upstarts. “Now young men, there is a police van on its way and I want you to behave yourselves until it arrives or I will arrest you on the spot” he said “As far as you are concerned young lady, I need you to come down to Scotland Yard and explain just what these men have been up to.” Amelia was too cold and miserable to answer, even though the thing she most wanted to do was go home. She had been given a jacket and cape to keep her warm, but underneath she still had on her soaking wet night clothes and she really needed to get out of them and dry herself out. Very soon there was the sound of a horses hoofs and the rattle of wagon wheels. The police van arrived accompanied by two constables and the 5 men and Amelia were bundled unceremoniously inside. the young men fought a brief battle to sit next to Amelia and the losers sat opposite and massaged her feet until something like feeling and warmth flowed into them. One of the young men removed his socks and very gently eased them onto Amelia’s feet. On arrival at Scotland Yard, they were bundled into the main office. The desk sergeant, who was also a no nonsense police officer, recorded the names of each of the men and allocated each to a sell, much to their annoyance and in spite of their protestations. He was more lenient with Amelia, who he had taken to be the wronged party, but when she asked him if she could go home to change her wet clothes, refused and when she protested a bit too much, allocated a cell to her also. As she was being hauled away, she demanded to at least be interviewed so that she could tell her side of the story and she blurted out that someone had tried to murder her. “In that case” the desk sergeant said “You will have to stay in custody to give your statement to a detective, and one will not be on duty until the morning” She was feeling very tired and nearly passing out with exhaustion and she could only respond “Then at least give me some dry clothes before I freeze to death in these wet ones and I will wait to talk to Inspector Knott in the morning”.

“You know the Inspector”. asked the Sergeant

“And Sergeant Jones and W.C. Wilks” she replied.

“Right, Constable Warner, get some warm clothes from the cupboard; I don’t care if they are men’s, find a towel, take her to her cell and get her dried and changed” Constable Warner the youngest policeman on duty, blushed down to his roots and spluttered “Yes Sarg.”

“Oh and by the way, Miss, did you swallow a lot of water from that open sewer we call the Thames?” When she nodded, he continued “Then I’m sorry but for your own health you must make yourself sick to try and make sure you do not pick up anything nasty.” Warner was dispatched to find a bowl and a flagon of water.  With great trepidation, Amelia pushed her fingers as far down her throat as she could and retched into the bowl. She then took mouthfuls of water, swilled them round her mouth and spit them out. The act made her feel even more miserable than before. Once she had finished to the satisfaction of the Desk Officer Warner was dispatched to find the clothes and a towel.  He took some from the cupboard and escorted Amelia to her allotted cell, where he handed her the towel and turned his back while she stripped of, dried herself vigorously and put on the rough but clean shirt and trousers she had been given. While this process was going on, more that one Constable had a surreptitious look at Amelia’s partially naked body through the small peephole in the cell door. Warner also found Amelia a blanket and after a  further protest, some socks and a pair of boots, much too big for her and feeling much warmer than she had for some time, lay down on the hard bench which passed for a bed and almost immediately fell asleep. Meanwhile at the desk the Constables were in conversation. It was agreed that there was no way inspector Knott could  be got out of bed early for anything and they decided that one of their number should call on Sergeant Jones and W.C. Wilks, but certainly not before 5.30 am that morning. It was already approaching 4 am, so there was not long to wait and all the prisoners had settled down.

A very disgruntled and morose Sergeant Jones appeared about 6 am very angry about having been woken up so early. He demanded a briefing from the Desk Sergeant and asked for Amelia to be taken to the interview room. When he was informed that she was still asleep, he told the constable to wake her up on the grounds that he had been woken up and did not see why she should be allowed to sleep on. When he walked into the interview room and saw the disheveled girl dressed in ill fitting men’s clothes from the store and her unkempt hair, his mood changed dramatically. He felt guilty about being so upset about being woken up so early, but as she looked up at him, could not prevent a smile coming to his lips and he had to stifle a laugh. The only times he had seen Amelia previously she had been dressed in the height of Society fashion, and even when he had visited her at home, she had always been smartly and attractively turned out. The apparition in front of him really looked as if it had spent time in the river followed by a night in a police cell.  “Well” he said “Just what have you been up to my girl?”  Ignoring his use of such a familiar form of address which under normal circumstances she would have found offensive, the only thing on her mind was to get home, have a bath and put on some decent clothes so she started on her story without delay. Jones listened intently, interrupting her only to keep up with his notes or when there was something he had misunderstood. He was surprised at the way her story developed, and felt a bit guilty that they had not accepted what she had told them on her previous visits, but it seemed to him now that Rupert Lyle was the murderer and she had been right all along. Finding the proof could be difficult as based on her story, it was his word against her’s. However, first things first. She should be allowed home immediately so that she should suffer no more distress, but there had to be a watch on the house in case Lyle returned to finish the job once he found out that she was still alive.

At this point there was a knock on the door and W.C. Wilks came into the room. She could not help laughing spontaneously at the sight of Amelia, a reaction the latter was reluctantly getting used to. Jones gave a summary of the events of the previous night and asked her to arrange a cab for Amelia. “Oh and PJ” he said, “we will have to put a watch on the house in case Lyle comes back. I’ll arrange for a constable to be on duty for the next couple of days at least. Until one arrives could you stay with Miss Ecclestone and keep an eye on her” Turning to Amelia he said “I’m going to let you go home now, but I’m afraid you have been a silly girl getting into danger so easily. Don’t do it again. You must come and tell us if you have any suspicions in the future. Oh and one other thing. I don’t doubt your story for one moment, but what was the motive? It must have been something to do with the luggage as you caught him in the act of trying to open the trunks and boxes. Can you arrange for a locksmith to come and unlock everything and go through it in detail to see what it was that Lyle was so desperate to find?” She confirmed that this was already in hand, but just at the moment solving the mystery, was furthest from her mind, she just wanted to get home. The carriage came and she and Wilks went out to meet it. Just as she was leaving, she turned to Jones and said “Those young men who pulled me from the water and called for help. I would like to them. Can you ask if I can have their addresses so I can write? And by the way, they very kindly loaned me a pair of socks, a coat and a cape. They could be ruined as they were in contact with my wet nightdress, but please make sure if you can that they are returned”. Jones agreed, and realised with a start, that he had spent a long time interviewing Amelia and the 5 innocent young men were still banged up in their cells. Amelia and Wilks left, the latter carrying Amelia’s soggy night clothes in a bag. Jones patiently worked his way through the 5 young men. Their stories all tallied and getting their permission to pass on their addresses to Amelia, and restoring the garments to the correct individuals, they were allowed to go.

When Amelia arrived home she found that Mary and Joseph had been distraught at her disappearance. They had noticed nothing until they had been wakened by the banging of the front door, which Cousin Rupert in his desperation to leave quickly had left open. They had realised that Amelia was missing and that someone had been in the house, so they bolted and barred the door and waited for morning. They had felt great relief when a constable had called round soon after dawn and told them that Amelia was alive and in police custody, but they were very anxious to know just what had happened. Amelia was very firm and told them that she would explain in her own good time, but she must have a bath and change out of the ridiculous clothes she was wearing. She left Wilks in the drawing room and went upstairs accompanied by Mary to sort herself out. As she was in the process of bathing, there was a knock at the door and the locksmith arrived. After a four way conversation between, Amelia, Mary, Joseph and W.C. Wilks it was agreed that the locksmith would make a start, supervised by Wilks.

It took a couple of hours for Amelia to feel more like herself and when she reappeared in the living room it was to find W.C. Wilks and the locksmith in conversation. He had finished opening all the trunks and boxes and was preparing to leave. he agreed to produce keys for all the locks and let Amelia have them. She thanked him for his efforts and he left. Wilks told her that a constable had arrived and would stand outside the house and help the household if Cousin Rupert did reappear. The police were searching for him and there was an order to arrest him if he was found. Amelia asked Wilks to stay for lunch, but she said that she had to return to Scotland Yard to return to duty and took her leave. Amelia had lunch alone, then went into the spare room to begin inspecting the luggage to see if there was something in there which warranted Cousin Rupert murdering both of her Guardians and attempting to murder her. She worked her way through the first trunk. There was a very wide range of clothing, from full dress military uniforms, through combat clothing to casual clothes and underwear. She did find a few trinkets, carefully wrapped up in cotton and what looked like silk from a sari. It made Amelia wonder just who it was who had helped the Major pack. There was nothing of real value, small ivory statuettes, a clock, a book of pressed flowers and the major’s imposing display of medals. Not a lot to show for a lifetimes service in Her Majesty’s army. She went through a few boxes which revealed military equipment, such as a pistol in a holster and a selection of knives. There was even a device for taking stones out of horses hoofs, something which made Amelia smile, being the source of  long standing humour in the military. Just as she was tidying these things up, Subaltern Cooper was announced. He smiled at the chaos surrounding Amelia and wished her good afternoon. He had in his hand a newspaper and waving it at her said “You are famous! The paper has a lurid story of you falling into the river and being rescued by five gallants. It must have been a harrowing time for you. It also says that the police are looking for your Cousin Rupert. What does he have to do with anything? I always knew he was up to no good always hanging round you like that.” Amelia did not respond to his comment, but took the newspaper from him and quickly read through it. Essentially the facts were correct, but her ordeal and her rescue by the men were greatly embellished and she realised that she would be a celebrity for a short time, until the next sensation came along. She handed the paper back to him.  “Would you like to help me look through the other trunk seeing that you are here?” she asked. He agreed and together they began to work through the second trunk. Again it was full of a great variety of clothes, but it also included packages which turned out to be new women’s clothing and Amelia decided that they were presents for his wife Cynthia. Then deep amongst the clothing they made a discovery.  It was a small box. When Amelia pulled it out she found it was very ornate with beautiful detailed carving and inlays of ivory and silver. “This must be worth a small fortune” she said to Samuel “I wonder if there is something valuable inside. Is this what Rupert was after and led him to murder?” Samuel had started when he saw the box, and when Amelia turned towards him she was surprised to find that the colour had drained from his face and he was shaking. “What is the matter? Have you seen this before?” He nodded and she thought he was going to faint, he looked so unsteady. “Do you want to tell me about it?” He recovered himself a little and in a hoarse whisper said “No. Let’s look to see what’s inside it first. Damn it, it’s locked isn’t it and we don’t have the key.”  Amelia had been taking a good look at the box and she turned to Samuel and smiled. “I have seen this type of box before, when I lived in India. Not one as ornate as this one but similar.” She got out her magnifying glass and began to inspect the box at close quarters. She found two small holes in the front of the box with tiny scratches around them. “We need a couple of pins.” she said. When she had found them she inserted them into the holes and twisted. A plate sprung back to reveal a secret compartment hiding a KEY! She took it out, placed it in the lock and turned it. There was a ‘click’ but the lid did not lift, and looked up to see Samuel’s face drop. She smiled at him, returned to the box and slid two small levers in the side. The lid was free to open. They looked inside to see a bundle of rags. Excitedly Amelia lifted them up and gasped. There in front of her gaze was the most fabulous collection jewels she had ever seen in her life. She help her breath in amazement. Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined such a treasure. Certainly it was one to commit murder for and now she completely understood Cousin Rupert’s motives. When she looked up at Samuel, she saw a look of satisfaction on his face. “You have seen this before, haven’t you?” He nodded. “Then you had better tell me the full story!”

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