BO Book 1 – Chapter 15 – Dilemmas

The two of them looked at each other. In front of them was a box of jewels of untold wealth, yet they both knew that it had been stolen and if it came to light, Major Hawthorne’s reputation would be ruined. Amelia was the first to speak “We cannot keep the treasure a secret. It is the motive for Cousin Rupert killing my Guardians and attempting to kill me, so we will have to think of something. One good thing, there is no need for your name to come into it.” Samuel looked at her with pleading eyes “Surely we can find a way of keeping it. We would both be very rich and I could progress my Army career in leaps and bounds.” Amelia refused to countenance the thought, but their eyes both turned to the jewels and decorations in the box;  Samuel began to run the loose jewels through his fingers and they sparkled when the light struck them. Amelia’s eyes fell on a ruby necklace. It had exquisite dark red rubies set in a fabulous silver setting. She had never seen anything so beautiful in her life. Maybe as Oscar Wilde had said, man can resist everything except temptation, she was sorely tempted but in reality there was no way they could keep the find from the police. In the last resort Cousin Rupert would tell them, and if he denied it, then he would go free as the murders he was supposed to have committed were completely without motive. Just then there was a knock at the door and they both jumped feeling the guilt. Hastily, they closed the lid and replaced the box under the clothes in the trunk, just in time for Mary to announce Sergeant Jones and W.C. Wilks. They both blushed as he came up the stairs and Amelia pointed him into her consulting room across the corridor.  The Sergeant quite misinterpreted their blushes and imagined that he had interrupted the beginnings of a romance. “I hope is not inconvenient for me to drop in like this” he began “I thought you might like to know what progress we have made towards catching Lyle, although we have not found him yet. We went round to his address and learned that he has not been home since last night.” (“Was it only last night?” mused Amelia). We have put a watch on his lodgings in case he returns home, but I don’t expect him to. He frequents a number of clubs and we did the round of those. We found at the Clarendon Club that he had been there most of the evening until quite late, drinking and gambling. Did you notice any alcohol on his breath, Maam?” and when Amelia said she had not, he carried on “We talked to quite a few people at the club and found that he does not have a particularly good reputation and he has been suspended more than once. Your Cousin Rupert was quite an unsavory character, by all accounts. We also pick up the names of a few of his closer friends, and we will do a tour of those over the next couple of days. We are taking this very seriously.” he stressed, looking directly at Amelia. “We have put out a description of him and asked our people to be on the lookout for him, especially if he makes an attempt to flee abroad. Do you know of any contacts he might have on the Continent for instance?” Amelia shook her head. And then came the question she had been dreading. “Have you found anything in the luggage yet which may give us a clue as to the motive?” Amelia, in spite of herself glanced at Samuel. “No not yet, we only got the locksmith to complete opening all the  trunks and boxes this morning and Samuel, Second Lieutenant Cooper, here has been helping me. He was in India with the Major.” and she blushed.  This was quite fortunate for her as the experienced Jones had picked up on her hesitant reply to his question about whether she had found anything important in the luggage, and he put her embarrassment to being with Cooper when they arrived. Amelia finally remembered her manners and offered Jones and Wilks some refreshment. She knew Jones would not say no to a flagon of ale and Wilks, Cooper and herself settled for a cup of tea. Whilst it was being brought by Mary, Amelia asked “Have you carried out a thorough search of his house? Perhaps the missing pages of the letter are there.”  Then a thought occurred to her “Did you every carry out an inspection of his walking sticks? It seems so long ago now, and I had forgotten until this moment actually, but we agreed that the fatal blow administered to the Major could have been from a walking stick with a bit protruding from the handle of a walking stick. Did you look at his stick collection?”

“Well no.” replied Jones. I think we will be able to build up enough evidence to convict him of your attempted murder and that will be enough to put him away for many years.” Amelia was not amused. She thought that the police should cover every angle and said so, but Jones dismissed it as not important. When they had finished their refreshment, they took their leave. Samuel had said hardly anything throughout the discussion.

Once Amelia had seen the two officers off down Knightsbridge Road, they returned to discussing what they should do about the treasure. There was no question in her mind that they would have to hand it over, but Samuel was very reluctant. After some discussion, Amelia suggest a compromise. She still had in mind the wonderful ruby necklace she had found and she proposed to Samuel that they should each take a few jewels from the box, not enough to reduce the value of the treasure significantly, but enough, for instance, for Samuel to have enough money to pay for costs associated with his army career. He rifled through the jewels and selected a number of the smaller stones, which would be more easily sold that larger ones, which may be traceable if they they had been obtained by the Maharajah himself, illegally. Amelia of course chose the necklace, and together they agreed that on the following day she would take the box with its remaining contents to Scotland Yard. They both heaved a sigh of relief and Samuel left, pleased with his collection.

Amelia was still annoyed at the way the police were ignoring the evidence which may be at Cousin Rupert’s lodgings to link him to the murders of her Guardians. It appeared to her, that they would not get justice at all if the police settled for a long prison term for her Cousin, for her attempted murder and she determined that she would go herself would go and carry out a search. She sent a message to Ruddock,  then suddenly feeling very tired she went for a sleep, telling Mary to wake her around 7 pm for dinner, if she was not already awake.

Having had her sleep and a light dinner, Amelia prepared herself for the night ahead. Although she was really determined to find out what she wanted to know, she realised that in going to Rupert’s lodgings, if she and Ruddock were caught, there would be real trouble. Even if she found what she was looking for and passed the information on to the police, there was the danger of being accused of planting evidence, if they were caught. However, dressed as a man and with Ruddock wearing a mask, unless they were actually apprehended, it was unlikely that any intrusion would be traced back to them. She weighted up the pros and cons, but in truth she had made her decision, and there was no way she was going to back out. So, at the appointed time she left the house by the back door, dressed in her male attire, a mask covering her face, her female form hidden under her voluminous cape and carrying her trusty silver topped, ebony walking cane. She let herself through the gate at the end of the garden, thinking how long it seemed since she had done this, and all over again, thinking how freeing men’s clothes were, compared with her usual restrictive corset and bustle. She felt a great thrill of excitement at the risks they were about to take and the evidence she may be able to find. She walked through the small park at the back of the house, trying hard to copy a masculine gait, out onto the Knightsbridge Road and into the coach where Ruddock was waiting for her. He had already had a good look at the house and had located the rooms which Rupert occupied. He had also watched the behaviour of the policeman who was on duty. Nor had Ruddock been idle since they had last been together. He had been collecting keys and had made a special belt to take them. He now had a plentiful supply and was confident that he could open anything except for the most advanced safes, which still needed a helping of dynamite to encourage them to reveal their contents.

When they arrived they parked the carriage round the corner and walked quietly towards the house. A burly policeman was standing guard over the front door, but Ruddock had found an entrance from the rear. They went round the back of the house. Amelia stood in a dark part of the garden, while Ruddock shinned up a drainpipe and disappeared through a small window on the first floor. After a couple of minutes, Amelia heard the bolts of the back door being slid back and the lock turning. Ruddock opened the door and Amelia slipped into the hallway. Ruddock re-locked the door and the two of them made their way up the stairs onto the first floor landing. Ruddock indicated Rupert’s door and drew a key from the belt round his waist, opened it and they went into the room. Amelia was holding the sheltered lamp and Ruddock struck a match and lit the lamp. Immediately Amelia closed the cover. They waited but everything still seemed quiet. She handed Ruddock the lamp and indicated to him to open the cover a little. She held out her cape to shield the light from the window and began to inspect the room. It was a typical batchelor pad; very untidy, with clothes and papers scattered around. In the small kitchen unit there were dirty dishes in the sink. After a cursory look at the scattered papers, she concentrated her efforts on the desk and the bureau. Ruddock used his store of keys to open any locked drawers. There was nothing in the bureau, so she started inspecting the desk. There was a small box on the desk, which was opened by Ruddock and rifling through the papers inside, almost immediately laid her hands on the missing page of the letter, with writing on both sides. She indicated to Ruddock to bring the light closer and read the last words of her Guardian, Major Hawthorne. It described the jewel box and the jewels within. Amelia drew a sharp breath; the Major had estimated that the contents of the box could be worth more than £1m.  No wonder Cousin Rupert was so determined to get his hands on the treasure by hook or by crook. She replaced the page in the box, closed the lid, locked it and returned the key to Ruddock. They extinguished the light and Amelia glanced out of the window. All was still quiet. Amelia had a further look round the room, but there was no sign of a walking stick, the second item she wanted to find. They went downstairs and Amelia moved towards the front door to see if there were any sticks just inside. She stopped still. Through the leaded glass of the front outlined in the light from the street lamp was a huge shape. A wave of panic washed over her, but the shadow did not move and she realised with relief that it was the policeman guarding the front door and not a midnight visitor to the house. There was a umbrella stand by the front door, containing a selection of sticks. Amelia, very slowly and quietly turned her back to the door and lifted her cape to shade the weak light from the lamp. She carefully inspected each of the canes, and saw that there was one with a handle exactly like the one sketched by the ruffians who had attacked the major. Still carefully shielding the light, she lifted the cane out of the stand by its stem, turned it up side down and looked underneath. There in the junction between the front part of the handle and the stem was a small dark mark. If this was the murder weapon and the mark had been missed when it had been cleaned, then it could be blood. She was excited. She hoped that the police could be persuaded to analyse the mark. She replaced the cane, Ruddock extinguished the lamp and she turned, to get another shock. There were two shadows outside the front door. They heard murmured voices, and one of the shadows moved away. It was the police changing over! Carefully they walked back down the corridor towards the back door. They reached the door and paused, then heard footsteps.  Amelia’s heart was once again in her mouth and she held her breath. Ruddock indicated for her to move back from the door, whilst he stood in the kitchen doorway, adjacent to the back door. They had tried this ruse before, if someone did come in, then Amelia was to turn and walk away to draw the intruder past Ruddock who would do the business with his cudgel. They froze as the footsteps came closer. A huge shape appeared, who they took to be the policeman. He tried the door handle. Ruddock had not replaced the bolts when he closed the door, but he had turned the lock, thank goodness. The door held and the policeman made his steady route round the house. Amelia heaved a sigh of relief. She was beginning to feel drained from all the fear she had experienced. As the footsteps faded, Ruddock turned the lock on the back door look out and ushered Amelia into the garden. All seemed quiet and Amelia walked quietly towards the darkest part of the garden. Ruddock locked and bolted the door from the inside. It seemed like an age to Amelia before he appeared at the upstairs window he had originally climbed in through and slid down the drain pipe. They worked there way back through the garden, into the street and back to the coach. They were safe at last. Safely back home, Amelia realised that she now had two dilemas. What should she tell the police about the treasure and should she insist that they searched Rupert’s lodgings. Proof of his guilt at the same time revealed the guilt of the Major in stealing the jewels in the first place. Sorting that out would have to wait until morning and she went to bed.

 

 

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