Amelia and Jane conferred on their investigation so far. They had learned very little other than getting a clear idea of Robert Garstang’s character. Every one had agreed that he was clever, hard working and otherwise quite ordinary. It fitted well with him being under the thumb of his elder sisters, in spite of his having inherited his father’s fortune. After an early tea, Amelia pleaded a headache and retired to her room. Jane spent her time writing up what they had done, being somewhat discrete about the goings on at the Billiard’s Club. Amelia was feeling guilty that she was going on a jaunt without Jane, but she could not see what else she could do without compromising her position as a police officer.
Night fell and as the clock moved towards 11pm, Amelia dressed for her night’s work. She went downstairs as quietly as she could and unlocked the back door. Jane, who had not fully gone to sleep, heard a noise, and intrigued she came out of her room to the top of the stairs, just in time to see a man wearing a top hat and an evening cape, disappear round the corner towards the back door. She called out ‘stop’ and followed as fast as she could. The man went though the door and into the garden. By the time she reached the door herself, the man had disappeared into the shrubbery. In her nightdress and with bare feet, she was not inclined to give pursuit, but decided to return inside and consult Amelia, even if it meant waking her up. Amelia had heard the noise behind her and once in the garden, glanced behind. She saw Jane. “Damn and Blast” she mouthed under her breath. This was just what she did not want to happen, but what’s done’s, done she thought and ran on to the wall, through the door and along the paths of the park to the road. The carriage was waiting as usual someway down the road, she clambered in and smiled at Ruddock. “Everything in hand?” she muttered, and he nodded. ‘Good old Ruddock, she thought, always the reliable assistant’. The cab took them to a street round the corner from the Chambers of Cabus, Winstanley, etc.etc. They walked the short distance and Ruddock led the way up an alley to the side of the building. Fortunately, there were no vagrants bedded down among the bins and rubbish. Ruddock spoke into her ear. He indicated a small ground floor window and after a short inspection with his knife, levered it open and disappeared inside. Seconds later, Amelia heard the scraping of the bolts on the adjacent door, which opened to let her in. It took her a minute to get her bearings and she led the way up the stairs, along the corridor to Josiah Garstang’s office. The door was not locked and they went in. There were two windows in the room, through which a faint light showed. They took one window each and closed the curtains. Ruddock put the lamp on a desk and lit it. There was enough light too see around and Amelia’s heart sank. There were small cupboards round the room and above them book cases from floor to ceiling, packed with legal papers wrapped in manila envelopes and bound with pink tape (or it might have been red tape which had faded). How could she possibly search through this mountain of paper? It would take years and she did not even know whether there was anything there which would help to find out why Robert had disappeared. She took a firm grip on herself. What would the Great Detective do? He would do a simple detailed search first to ascertain whether one cupboard had been used more than the others; he would look at the drawers in the desk to see if there was anything there. There was a set of steps in the corner of the room and Amelia used them to to see in what order the cases were filed. At least she was sure that Robert Garstang would have the most comperhensive filing system ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ The dates on the oldest cases went back over 75 years. She followed them along the walls and finally came to a book case which was only about three quarters full and had the most up to date cases. She took out her magnifying glass and gesturing Ruddock to bring the lamp, began an inspection. The older case files may have been covered in a fine film of dust behind the glass, but the most recent ones were clean, as was the whole office. She discovered that, of course, the bookcase with the most recent scratches was the one with the most recent case files inside. She indicated for Ruddock to open the locks of the desk drawer, while she looked more closely at the most recent cases. It occurred to her that Robert would keep a comprehensive ledger of the cases and sure enough, the last item in the last bookcase was a large ledger. Now there was a place to start. Ruddock pulled open the drawers, Amelia thanked him and indicated that she should leave the lamp on the desk and retire to the far corner of the room. If they were discovered, their usual plan was that Lord Fauntelroy, would act with exaggerated shock, while Algy would appear from behind the door and deal with the intruder. At least that was the plan. Amelia, climbed the steps once more to find the date of the earliest file in the last bookcase. That would be as far back as she would go on this visit. If nothing appeared then they would have to pay other visits or follow a different line of investigation. She took off her top hat and cape, which she put onto a chair. This could be a long search and she wanted to be comfortable. She opened the ledger at the end and proceeded to work her way backwards through the entries. The ledger was a work of art. The script was absolute perfection. There were one or two mistakes, which had been carefully ruled through and re-written. She followed the entries until she reached the one corresponding to the first case file in the cupboard. She found nothing unusual, although she of course had no idea what she was looking for. She decided to work her way back to the end, this time concentrating hard. She told herself that there was something there, she just had to find it. And then she did, and quite quickly. The case was Fellini v Pablo and Beech. At the edge of the entry there was a small penciled cross. Every other entry was in black ink in that lovely script. She felt that she could rely on Robert’s personality, even though she had never met him. He was so painstaking, that he would not have left the pencil mark there if it had not been for a reason. She went to the bookcase and retrieved the Fellini v Pablo and Beech file. She would take it home and read it at her leisure. Ruddock, who was smoking a rather evil smelling cheap cigar, gestured to her that he had unlocked the desk drawers and she had not bothered to look. He pointed out that there was a desk diary, which he had placed on the desk. She nodded her thanks. Perhaps that would tell her something. Robert had come into the office on the Wednesday that her had disappeared, although it was not one of his usual days at the office. She turned to the day, but there was no entry. She turned the page and looked back. And there, the Thursday before, there was an appointment for a Mr Fellini. Amelia felt that she had backed the winner in the Derby. Collecting the Fellini file, they locked up the desk drawers, extinguished the lamp, opened the curtains, Amelia retrieved her top hat and cape and they left the room in the state they had found it, other than for a slight smell of tobacco and the client file. It was only when they were safely back in the coach she realised that for all her excitement, she would have to find some explanation in the morning for Jane, who had seen her leaving the house.
The next morning Jane was up early. She had not heard Amelia come in last night and was waiting eagerly to tell her story, but of Amelia there was no sign. It was such a lovely morning that Jane took a walk round the garden. She looked for any sign left by the intruder, but she found nothing and starting to feel peckish, returned to the dining room for breakfast. Mary had produced the usual wide selection of dishes, spread out along the sideboard. There was still no sign of Amelia, so Jane dined alone. It was not until she was on her second cup of coffee that Amelia made her appearance, yawning and looking tired even after a good (if short) night’s sleep. She mumbled an ‘Hello’, picked a selection of food and sat down. Jane could not wait to begin her story, and Amelia who had still not decided to respond, sat in trepidation. She felt guilty about deceiving Jane, but was still at a loss about how it should be dealt with. Jane began “There was a very unusual occurrence last night. I heard a noise just as I was going to sleep. I looked out of my room to see what was happening and I saw a man wearing a top hat and a cape running down the stairs. I chased after him, but he ran out of the back door and I lost sight of him. I was in my nightdress, with no slippers, so did not want to venture out. The strangest thing was though,” and here she looked Amelia straight in the eye, “I went into your room to wake you and you were not there. Do you want to tell me what was going on? Do you have a secret lover?”
Amelia could not prevent a tear coming into her eye. “I have no lover but I’m afraid Jane, that I have deceived you. I did it because I did not want to compromise you as an upholder of the law. It would be best if you just forgot all about what you saw.”
Of course this made matters worse. She had given Jane an explanation which raised more questions than it answered and she could see that her partner in this investigation and, as she now realised, her good friend as well was not only confused, but also knew that there was something she was not being told. “Let me finish my breakfast and drink a cup of coffee then I will tell you the story.” Jane smiled and nodded. They engaged in small talk while Amelia finished eating and had drunk her coffee. Then she said in a firm voice “There is something you must know. Wait here for half an hour then come up to my room.” Jane was intrigued, but agreed to wait the required time and Amelia left the room. Twenty minutes later, Amelia was standing in front of her bedroom mirror dressed in her Lord F costume. She had her back to the door, but was able to see it reflected in the mirror. There was a knock at the door, she called “Come in” and as Jane appeared on the threshold, swung round with her cape swinging out in dramatic fashion. As she removed her top hat and mask she blurted out “It was I that you saw last night. I went out on an escapade with Ruddock, dressed like this. I call myself Lord Fauntelroy and try and fool people that I am a man, so that I am not recognised.”
“Why do you need to do that?”
“Because what we get up to can be outside the law and I do not want to be identified as myself. Ruddock also wears a mask and goes by the name of Algy.”
“So where did you go last night?”
“We invaded the offices of Cabus, Winstanley and searched Robert Garstang’s office.”
“Did you find anything?”
“I think so, but its not enough to give us a definite lead. I propose we return this morning and question young Mr Cabus.”
“Not dressed like that!”
“Definitely not!” The tension was broken and they both laughed. “Give me time to dress suitably, then we can go. Can you send a note to Mr Cabus, saying that we will be with him, say around Noon?” Jane assented and went off to write the note.
As she removed her manly garb, and proceeded to dress for the morning’s work, Amelia felt excited. They did not have much to go on but the coincidence of Robert meeting Fellini on the day he disappeared and the cross against his case notes in the ledger gave an encouragement she had not felt so far in this apparently intractable problem. This time with Cabus she was going to stand no nonsense. She was determined to find out everything he knew about the Fellini v Pablo and Beech. When she appeared at the bottom of the stairs ready to go, Jane gave a small gasp of surprise. Amelia was wearing a bustle dress in canary yellow with a matching hat topped with two enormous ostrich feathers. Jane smiled, “Dressed like that I don’t know what you will do to Cabus to you frighten me!”
“Silly girl” replied Amelia and they were both laughing as they climbed into the waiting cab. for the second time, the two women climbed the imposing steps and made their way though magnificent portico of the famous lawyers, Cabus, Winstanley, Garstang, McTigh, Overland, Cabus and Garstang. Amelia swept past the Commissionaire, calling over her shoulder “We have an appointment with young Mr Cabus.” (the ‘young’ was a bit superfluous as ‘old’ Mr Cabus was long gone.) They swept along the corridor towards the office, with the Commissionaire in pursuit. Mr Cabus’ secretary just had time to go to his door and warn him of Amelia’s impending arrival, when she swept into the office, closely followed by Jane. He rose to his feet, somewhat nonplussed. “You received our note I take it?” enquired Amelia.
“Er. Yes. I was expecting you. Please take a seat both of you. Now ladies, to what do I enjoy this undoubted pleasure? Would you like some refreshment? Cordial perhaps?”
“That is very kind of you, ” said Amelia and Jane nodded her assent. Cabus, indicated to his hovering secretary to fetch some cordial and asked “What is this about? Have you found our missing Partner?”
“We have not found him”, replied Amelia, “but we think we have made some progress. We think that Robert’s disappearance is related in some way to the case of Fellini v Pablo and Beech. Can you give us some background to the case?”
“I’m afraid I can’t. As I told you ladies before, all our cases are confidential and we cannot divulge information about them to any young ladies who happen to come by, however pretty they are” and he smirked.
“Mr Cabus, it is very important that we find out some background to this case, because as I said we think it is related to what we are investigating. We would like to see the case file please.” As he was about to reply Amelia rose to her feet, dominating the room in her canary yellow with the rustling bustle, and the drapes down the front. The ostrich feathers swung with her slightest movement and Cabus shrank back into his chair, overwhelmed. “If you do not help us, then I’m afraid that Jane will have to make a full report to her superiors at Scotland Yard. We have enough evidence to enable them to request a search warrant to search these premises for the case file.”
“Oh no dear lady. They is no way that a judge will allow the police to search the premises of a high standing lawyers like ourselves. You stand no chance.” Amelia said nothing. She looked directly at Cabus and raised a questioning eyebrow. She had been ready. Cabus was not, but realised immediately. “That is not to say we have anything to hide, I hope you have not jumped to that conclusion. ” Amelia moved her head slightly and her ostrich feathers oscillated in the air. She said nothing, because she knew she had him. He would not risk going to court and it becoming public knowledge that he was obstructing an investigation into the disappearance of one of his own Partners. There was a pregnant pause. Then he said “If I tell you what I know, and show you the file, will you undertake not to divulge the information to any third party?”
“I give you my word, I will divulge nothing without coming back to you for your permission.” Then let us go into Robert’s office, and I will tell you what I know, although of course he is dealing with the case, so I am not totally aware of where it has got to. The file should fill in the gaps.” He led the way to Robert’s office indicating to his secretary that he did not want to be disturbed. When then had sat down, he started his account. “Mr Fellini is an Italian manufacturer. He has invented a new type of rifle, which he claims is vastly superior to those used by the British army at the present time. The rifles are imported into England for the War Ministry by a company called Pablo and Beech. Mr Pablo has the Italian connections and Mr Beech has some high level contacts in the Army. Mr Fellini came to use because he was not being paid for his rifles. He claimed that he has delivered three or four lots, I don’t remember how many, but no money has been forthcoming from Pablo and Beech. Their defence is that they supplied the War Department with the rifles, but they have not been paid, and as you can now guess yourself, the War Department deny having received no more than a token number so far. It is a case that Robert finds fascinating, which is more than can be said for most of the other partners. Knowing very little about the case, and without prejudice of course, its my opinion that Pablo and Beech are up to some, what should I call it ‘sharp practice’ I put it no more specific than that. The War Department has evaluated the rifles which they have received and they believe, I understand that they are so superior to other rifles, they are trying to persuade Mr Fellini not to sell them to anyone else. What happened a month ago, was that the War Department offered not only to pay Fellini for the rifles he claims he has sent them, but to buy his output for the next two years. As you can imagine, that adds up to quite a lot of money. Getting on for for a quarter of a million dollars” Both the women gasped at the huge amount. “As a further complication of the issue Fellini demanded payment in Bearer Bonds denoted in US dollars. These are to be handed over in a few day’s time at the end of the month. I have remonstrated with the WD that they are acting foolishly with tax payers money, your money and my money. I think as a result of this they have become very secretive and its my belief that even parts of the WD don’t know what is going on. Its a mess, and here was Robert in the middle of it, trying to sort it out, and working only two days a week, not being able to keep up with it. That is why I think he came in on the fateful Wednesday.”
“Well,” said Amelia “that is a lot to absorb. Thank you so much for being so open. I’m sure you will not regret it. I don’t think there is any need for us to trouble you for the case file to look at. With what you have told us we can take it on. It appears that this case which started off as a ‘missing person’ case, is turning into something of national importance. Thank you again and we wish you good day.”
As they were driving back to Conaught Mews in the cab, Jane leaned over to Amelia “I thought you were going to ask Cabus to show you the case file for Fellini v Pablo and Beech. Why didn’t you?”
Amelia replied with a huge smile “I am confident that he told me all he knew, and we certainly have a motive for Robert’s disappearance. Anyway Cabus couldn’t show me the file. I stole it when we searched Garstang’s office last night!”