BP Book 1 – Chapter 16 – Capture

Amelia breakfasted in bed the next morning, before getting up for a bath and beginning to dress. She was off to Scotland Yard to show them the Maharajah’s treasure (or that part of it still left) and she was quite determined to make and impression. She sent off a message to Inspector Knott telling him that she would attend his office at 10am on a matter of the greatest importance. She was in no mood to take any prevarication and woe betide him if he was not there for the appointment. Mary brushed her hair until it shone, then fastened it up in one of the latest fashions. She put on her corset, Mary giving it an extra tug, and her undergarments. From  all her dresses she had chosen her magenta, a striking colour with multiple layers of folds, together with a matching hat and a parasol. As she was completing her wardrobe, Samuel arrived. She told him where she was bound and when he asked if he could accompany her, refused. “It would be better if we were not linked too much in the minds of the police.” she said. She did not mention her escapade of the previous night nor what she had found out. For the time being that would be her secret. She said that she would tell the police that she had found the treasure box in the Major’s luggage, that before that she knew nothing about it except for the intriguing passage in the letter she had already shown the police. She had still not decided what to tell them about what she had found in Rupert’s lodgings, nor encourage them to search the place for themselves. She would decide on that later, perhaps after she had discussed the matter with the Inspector.

Samuel carried the jewel box to the cab that Amelia had waiting in the road and then took his leave. When they arrived at Scotland Yard, she descended from the cab and asked a policeman on duty at the entrance, in her most imperious manner, to carry the case into the building. She presented herself at the desk and still using the same tone of voice, informed the desk sergeant that she had an appointment with Inspector Knott, and she did not like to be kept waiting. “Who should I say is here” he asked

“Miss Amelia Ecclestone”

“Oh, I’m sorry Miss Ecclestone, I did not recognise you.” A voice from behind the sergeant piped up “You look a bit different from the last time you were here.” and she gave the owner of he remark a withering look, which caused him to blush and the rest of the assembled police to laugh. W.C. Wilks appeared and taking the box, led Amelia to the Inspector’s office. As she entered she saw Sergeant Jones then looked at the Inspector and realised that he was not amused.

“I hope you are not wasting my time dear lady.” he began, “I’m very busy”.

“Oh, I think that you will find this very interesting.” pointing to the box as W.C. Wilks was putting it on to his desk. He inspected it “It certainly is exquisite workmanship. Of Indian origin I guess.Do you have the key?”

“No, you have” was her amused reply.

“Do not play games with me young lady. How do I open it?”

“There are two small holes on the side. Insert two pins into them and twist, the key will be revealed.” He followed her instructions and the key compartment sprang open. “Then you have to pull out the two sliding pieces and she pointed, there and there. Knott followed her instructions, opened the box, removed the cloths on the top and gasped in amazement. “Good God, what is this? Sorry for swearing, Miss. PJ clear that table over there and we will see what we have. She carried out his instructions and he carefully poured the jewels onto the table. Amelia had seen them laid out like this before and the sight was truely amazing gems of every size and colour, necklaces, bangles, gold chains. The four of them stood round the table looking at what was laid out dumbstruck for the moment. Knott was the first to speak. “Warburton is the nearest thing we have to a expert on jewelry. Fetch him PJ. And” he was adamant “you are sworn to secrecy. Tell that to Warburton before you bring him in.” He turned to Amelia “Well this definitely is a motive for murder, in your case attempted murder. Are you sure he knew about it?”

“I am not certain. As you know there was a page of the Major’s last letter missing and the previous page hinted at something special without being specific. I did not know anything about a treasure, until” she paused, deciding not to mention Samuel at this point “I found the box in one of his trunks and opened it up.” Warburton appeared and he also gasped in amazement at the display. “Wow, he said “I have seen nothing like this before. There is a strong Indian influence in the jewelry, but the stones could have come from anywhere.”

“How much is it worth?” demanded Knott.

“How should I know. I would have to take the stuff to the experts to get a proper valuation.”

“Don’t mess about. You are the only expert we have. The fact that we have this haul must not go out of this office for the time being, so give us your best guess.”

Warburton had a closer look at some of the individual pieces, made a few rough notes and said that the contents of the box were worth half a million pounds, perhaps more it they were sold discretely piece by piece. “Well that settles it. This may be evidence in a murder case, but we can’t keep them here.” He looked at Amelia. “Do you have a bank who would keep them safe for us, until we catch Lyle and bring him to trial?” Amelia replied that her bank was the London and Empire and she was sure that they would store the box for her “There is no need for them to know what the box contains.” she added.

The Inspector instructed W.C. Wilks to replace the jewelry in the box “No slipping something into your pocket.” he added. “PJ will accompany you to the bank and escort you home. Is that alright?” Amelia agreed. Then she said “Are you making progress in your attempt to apprehend Cousin Rupert?” Jones answered “We have not made much progress so far and in fact we appear to be going backwards. We followed up the people who had been identified as his friends. When we visited one of them, we were told that Lyle had gone home with him from the Club and had stayed the night. he denied that Lyle had been out again. However, he had left in the morning and had not returned. As things stand, its your word against Lyle’s that he was the one who attacked you. We accept your version of course, but a jury will not convict on such a serious charge as attempted murder when there is so much doubt in their minds. Neither have we had any success finding the cab man, who brought him to your house  and then took you to the Thames. As far as Lyle himself is concerned, he has disappeared, but our men are on the look out for him. He did not have any time to plan, so cannot have hatched a plan to hide until it was all over.”

“Can I make a suggestion?” responded Amelia, starting to feel as though the case was getting away from her “Call off your bloodhounds and let Ruddock see what he can find out. He knows a lot of cabbies in the town and he may be able to track down the one we want.” Always short of resources, Jones readily agreed.

Knott instructed both Wilks and Warburton to accompany Amelia to the bank to deposit the box. It was agreed that the box would be put into a bag and Knott instructed the Constables not to go into the bank with Amelia, as that would cause the manager to become suspicious. Everything worked to plan. The bank manager was very polite and helpful, the box was safely deposited, Amelia took her leave of the Constables outside the bank and returned home. Her first action was to send a note to Ruddock to come round to the house for a briefing. Once this was done, she took a cold lunch and thought about what she could do next. She had offered to write and thank her five rescuers, and had still not done so, neither had she seen Alice since her ordeal in the river. Both of these she must do soon. It appeared that if Cousin Rupert had an alibi, which was false of course, then it was vital to find the cabby, and she did not have long to wait, as Ruddock soon appeared. She brief him thoroughly and stressed the importance of finding the cabbie. He smiled a broad smile “Leave it to me. If he is around I will find him.” and she felt quite relieved that she could rely on him find out the right person. She sat down and wrote to her saviours.  She thank them and said that she would invite them round for tea  when she had recovered from her ordeal. Then she penned off a note to Samuel, telling him how the meeting went with the police and that the jewels were now in the safe hands of the London and Empire Bank. Having finished all her chores, she changed into a more subdued afternoon dress set off to see Alice.

Alice welcomed her with great excitement. “Welcome to the heroine of the hour! Just what in God’s name have you been up to? You must tell me everything.” Amelia wanted to know why, if her friend had been so concerned, she had not bothered to come round to her. Alice replied “Having a small child is a full time job and I don’t really read newspapers much these days. It was only when I was talking to some friends. They were all agog at the exploits of my close friend Amelia Ecclestone. From they way they told it, you were a super woman, dropped into the raging Thames, you swam magnificently against the tide and climbed up the tower of a bridge, before being rescued by a group of very handsome young men. Tell me the full story!” Amelia let out a sigh. “Well it wasn’t really like that, certainly it didn’t feel that way. I was scared stiff and I really thought I was going to drown.” She then went on to tell her story, from the point at which she caught Cousin Rupert opening the Major’s luggage. Alice listened in silence, her expression becoming more and more concerned, as it started to become clear just how close Amelia had been to death.  When Amelia reached the end of her story, there was a silence for a few moments, whilst Alice took it all in, then she flew into Amelia’s arms, hugging her close. “Oh Amelia, I dread the thought of losing my closest friend. You were saved by Providence.” She looked her friend in the eye “I don’t want you to get into that situation every again. Promise me that you will never, ever get involved in this kind of thing again. Once and for all, you must give up this idea of being a detective.”

Amelia became very emotional and tears came to her eyes. “I love you more than any other friend in the world, but we have always been different, and that is why I value your friendship so much. You have chosen the path of marriage and motherhood, but you know how much I value my independence and that is not going to change. I find detective work so thrilling,” and she thought of the investigation she was still on, and how crucial it was that answers were found, “I don’t want to give it up. Please don’t make it a condition of our friendship.”

“I would never do that, but do think about it carefully. I don’t think you realise just what risks you were taking and just how close you were to death. I worry about you so much.”

“Oh Alice, you are so wonderful, you provide me with an oasis of calm and stability in a dangerous world. Say you will always be my friend, even if I do things you disagree with,” and they hugged again. “Now show me the child. How is he getting on? He must be growing quickly. One day you much let me push his pram in the park.” Alice called the nanny and asked her to bring in the child. “Here is Julian.” she said proudly “Say ‘hello’ to your aunt Amelia.” The baby gurgled and smiled, and for the rest of her visit, Amelia immersed herself in baby talk. Eventually she said Goodbye and left to return home, her mind once again thinking about the unfinished investigation. However at the back of her mind, she could not help thinking of Alice’s warning, and how different her adventure seemed to those outside compared with how it felt to her. Even now she felt a thrill of fear pass though her, inextricably linked with the excitement of it all. When she arrived home there was still no word from Ruddock, but then she had only given him the commission that morning. She would have to be patient. Stuck in limbo for a while, Amelia decided to write up her most recent escapade. When she opened her journal she was surprised how long it was since she had recorded any of the events in the case. Even though it was only a few days a lot had happened. After a couple of hours sitting at her desk, she sat back satisfied with her work. Her thoughts turned to what Alice had said. There was a lot of good sound sense in her words and Amelia sat down in her favourite chair, gazed into the fire and reviewed her life so far. She had started her interest in detection as a girl when she had read Dr John Watson’s record of the cases of Mr Sherlock Holmes. Coming from India she had found the role of women in England to be highly restricted, especially when they married, when in effect they were owned by their husbands.  It was there in the marriage service – ‘love, honour and OBEY’ promised the Bride, ‘love, honour and CHERISH’ promised the Groom, in a solemn ceremony, in church before God. If you made that promise then it had to be kept, and Amelia had determined at an early age that she would never promise to obey anyone, and therefore that she should never marry.  In Society and beyond there were brave women fighting for women’s rights, and there had been some success with the passing of the married woman’s act in 1888, which allowed a woman to keep some of her own possessions after marriage, but it was a small step. However there were compensations. Only today, she had demonstrated the power of the way she dressed. trussed up as she was in a debilitating corset, with a highly restricting bustle and a flouncing skirt. The very restrictions made a statement of class which in Society demanded respect from others especially men.  As her understanding of this role of a lady increased, she had realised the power it conferred when properly exploited, although there was a subtlety about it which had to be concentrated on and never taken for granted. Properly used, it could gain her entrance to situations from which a man would be barred, and provide some balance to her obvious physical vulnerability as a detective. She had also made a breakthrough when it came to clandestine activities, where a woman’s dress would be impossible to wear. Her man’s suit, with a mask and cape provided the perfect dress to disguise herself.  She loved the freedom it bestowed on her and every time she put it on and went out, she felt liberated. The ease of walking, the swing of the cape, the confident tap of her cane together, provide her with an experience that was available no where else in English Society, and she thought with some nostalgia the freedom she had experienced growing up in India, although she probably admitted to herself, the freedom was mainly down to her being a child. By the time Mary announced that she should dress for dinner, Amelia had convinced herself that the life of a lady detective was quite perfect for a young women living in Society in England.

The next morning passed very slowly for Amelia and she was pleased when Samuel was announced.  Once they had completed the usual formalities and Samuel had accept a glass of Madeira wine, he asked her to describe in detail just what had happened at the police station and what she had said to the Inspector. Patiently, she went through all that had occurred and confirmed that the jewels and the jewel box were in the safe keeping of the London and Empire. “There were no questions about whether we had taken anything from the box.” he asked and was relieved when she shook her head. “What are we to do now?” he asked and Amelia replied that everything should be left as it was at least until Cousin Rupert had been arrested, brought to trial and hopefully committed prison. “Until all that has happened,” she continued “I will still worry that somehow he will come back and take his revenge. Its not a good feeling” and Samuel agreed. “Sadly, the Regiment has had its marching orders, we leave in two weeks for Sudan. May I write to you while I am away?”

“Of course. I would love to know what you are up to and I will respond telling you of any developments here.” Samuel made his ‘goodbyes’  holding Amelia gently, but making no attempt to kiss her and she did not encourage him. As he left, she wondered whether she had feelings for him. As a friend and colleague, yes, but as far as romance was concerned, she was not really interested although she did not know why. If it was always this easy not to get romantically involved with an eligible young bachelor, then staying unmarried would not be a problem.

Lunchtime passed and Amelia had just decided that she could no longer mope around. She had to find something to occupy her, when there was a knock at the door and Ruddock. She could see from the look on his face that he had been successful.  Containing her excitement, she sat him down and ordered Mary to bring him a flagon of beer. He began “I found him Miss. I was up half the night but I finally tracked him down. It was easy to persuade him to talk!” Amelia raised a fist “No not like that. He had read the story in the newspapers and knew he ought to come forward, but was worried that he would be treated as an accessory or some such thing. It was easy to convince him that the police knew what had happened from your story and that if he would give his own evidence, he would prevent Lyle getting off, ’cause as the police said, as things stand it was your word against his. He has agreed that I should tell you and you would arrange for the police to interview him.”

“Thank you very much Ruddock. You deserve a bonus for this” and she turned away his protestations. Now if you will excuse me I will send a note to Sergeant Jones, telling him that we will arrange a meeting with this cabbie. Where are we likely to find him.”

“Well he is out and about earning a living, but I know the cab ranks he usually frequents and at what times and I’ll soon track him down.”

“I’ll ask Jones to come here at 7 pm and you can go looking for him together. If I come, it make spook him to know that I travelled in his cab with a murderer on the way to be drowned.” With this Ruddock left, and Amelia immediately sat down to write her note.  Jones arrived promptly at 7 accompanied by W.C. Wilks, and they set off together with Ruddock to find the cabby. Jones said “We may be a long time. I won’t come back tonight so don’t wait up. I come first thing in the morning if I have any news. Amelia was reluctant to wait, but she could understand that to track down a busy cabby and interview him make take them all night if they were unlucky. her sleep that night was intermittent but she was put out of her misery, when Jones turned up bright and early. He showed some tiredness, but he was beaming. “We had success beyond our wildest dreams” he began “We located the cabbie quite quickly, and he immediately confirmed the identity of Lyle from the picture we showed him. We got the full detailed story, which confirms completely your version. But there is more. As we had finished with him early, I decided to pay another visit to Lyle’s friend who had given him an alibi on the night he attacked you. Once I told him the seriousness of his situation, namely that if he stuck to his story, and was found to be lying, he would probably go to prison for perverting the course of justice. At that he broke down completely and confessed that Lyle had threatened to kill him if he did not confirm the alibi. Lyle had indeed accompanied him home on the night in question, but as soon as he had forced his friend to support his alibi, he left. We now have all the evidence we need to get  conviction. All we need now is the man himself.” Amelia was relieved beyond measure that the case was finally sewn up. She thanked Jones for his efforts, and wished him good night.

Jones called the next day to say that Lyle had been arrested on the channel ferry to France.

 

 

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