The following morning Amelia and Jane set off to meet Georgio Fellini in his room at the Dorchester Hotel. They asked for him at reception, were told they were expected and shown up to his suite. After some consideration, Amelia had decided on her light blue bustle dress with matching, feathered hat. She wanted to make a good impression on the Italian, and knew she would not be able to match a smoldering Latin beauty so settled for the English gentlewoman look instead. It was clear as Fellini came forward to greet them that he was suitably impressed with her turnout.
He asked the ladies if they would like to partake of an Italian wine, and they felt it would be churlish to refuse, so he instructed his man servant to bring the drink and invited them to site down. “Now what can I do for you ladies?” he asked in English with an attractive Italian accent.
Amelia explained that they were Private Detectives, asked by Robert Garstang’s sisters to find him following his disappearance over a week ago. She continued “We understand that you consulted the lawyer, Robert Garstang. You went to see him two weeks ago and he disappeared soon afterwards. Can you tell us what your purpose was in consulting him?”
“I am afraid that the matter is confidential.”
“We understand that it was something to do with the sale of your advanced rifles to the British War Department, though the import company Pablo and Beech. We believe that his disappearance is related to the fact that you consulted him over this matter. Is that correct?”and Amelia flashed him her most dazzling smile. “It would greatly help us in our search for Mr Garstang if you could tell us in your own words what the purpose of your consultation with him was about. We think his life may be in danger and you assistance could help us find him before something serious happens to him.”
“I went to see him, because of the discrepancy between the money I was paid by Pablo and Beech and the amount I thought I had agreed with your War Ministry. I think it would be best if I told you the story from the beginning if you have time. Its a long story. Please have another drink,” and his manservant silently refilled their glasses. “I run a company in Italy, which makes bearings for machines. It is successful and I was looking for another product to expand the business. It may come as a surprise to your ladies, but bearings have to be very accurately manufactured if they are to be reliable and efficient, and looking round I settled on a new style of rifle. To be reliable and accurate,rifles have also to be manufactured to the highest standard. I also realised that European armies were competing with each other to have the best and latest models, and most countries were rearming.” Amelia shuddered. Boys with their toys. Once they had them, sooner or later they would be used. What she actually said was “I understand Mr Fellini that you invented the most advanced rifle yet produced.”
“Unfortunately, that is where you are wrong, although it is a popular misconception which I do nothing to deny. Actually, what happened was this. Once I had decided to manufacture rifles, I looked at the existing ones available, and I found four or five, all of which had a new component, a better sight mechanism, an improved bolt action etc. I won’t bother you with small details. Eventually, I had the bright idea of incorporating all these new components in my own design. So as you see, I did not invent anything. I just brought together what others had done. What appeared, even though I say it myself, is the best rifle on the market. Then I discovered a problem. All the Countries I visited to sell the rifle, had already decided which of the other rifles on the market they wanted and I was totally rejected everywhere. I came to England as a last resort and then I had a piece of good fortune. I met Alberto at the Italian embassy. Alberto is a distant Cousin of mine and I discovered that he already had good contacts with your War Department because he was selling them some knitted garments which he imported from Italy. He introduced me to the right people and a soon as they had tested my rifle, they ordered 50 immediately. Following that order, they ordered another 100. The problem that took me to consult with Robert Garstang was that in both cases I was not paid for the full number. In the first instance I was paid for 30 and the second only 50. Alberto told me that the War Department had only paid for the smaller numbers. Mr Garstang acted on my behalf and was told by the War Department that they had fully paid for all the rifles they had received. So, neither I nor Mr Garstang, could not understand what had been going on. I am certain that we sent the correct number of rifles to England and I did not want to suspect my Cousin, so I suggested to Mr Garstang that he look elsewhere for the culprit, in the British War Department for instance. Then of course as you probably know, the War Department offered to buy my whole output for the next two years, to prevent me selling them to another power. Between you and I, I just added the cost of the rifles I had not been paid for to my quotation for two years supply. I also insisted that the War Department came out to Milano, oversaw the packing of the items then travelled with them to see them safely delivered to England. They readily agreed to this. They also agreed to pay for the first year’s supply up front and in two days time I will be collecting my money in the form of Bonds denominated in $US. They were not totally happy with using dollars, but finally agreed.”
“So they will be handing over the Bonds to you on Thursday?”
“Well, no. As the rifles are still technically being imported by Pablo and Beech, they will receive the Bonds and will then hand them over to me. We are all to meet at the War Department on Thursday afternoon, then go to the Bank to collect them.”
“We wish you well in your transaction” said Amelia “and thank you for taking the patience to explain it all to us.” She turned to Jane “It has certainly filled in a lot of gaps in our understanding of what Robert was working on when he disappeared.” Jane nodded and said “but it does look as though the War Department should be investigated. That is something we are unable to do, but we could explain the situation to Scotland Yard and see what they say.” Mr Fellini looked nervous “I hope you don’t tell them everything I have told you. I told you in confidence.”
“Don’t worry” Amelia hurried to reassure him. We will be very discrete and only divulge what we have to.”
“Thank you. Now if that is all, I have a lot of things to do today, so please excuse me. I hope you are successful in finding Mr Garstang and discovering why he disappeared.” The ladies took their leave.
On the way back in the cab, they discussed the conversation they had had with Fellini and agreed that they were inclined to trust his version of the story. Jane was worried at the thought that there was a villain in the War Department. It would be very sensitive if Scotland Yard starting raising questions there, especially if nothing came of it. Amelia said “Perhaps we need a briefing about how these Bonds work. I have heard of them but don’t know much about them. Perhaps I could go to the bank this afternoon and ask my tame bank manager. I am more inclined myself to investigate Pablo and Beech. Pablo may be Fellini’s cousin, but that is no reason why we should not investigate him.”
However, when they arrived back at No.1 Conaught Mews, Ruddock was waiting for them. He occupied a comfortable chair and had been supplied with a generous quantity of ale by Mary. he stood as they came in. Amelia said “Jane, you sit with Jeremiah while I change into something more comfortable, then we can talk about a plan of action.” On her return, Ruddock described how he had looked over the offices of Pablo and Beech. It would be quite easy to get in if Amelia wanted to. He had also visited the P & B warehouse down by the docks. “That is much more interesting.” he said “There is a lot of to-ing and frow-ing as you would expect, and a lot of the movement looked quite furtive. I think we ought to go and have a look round there. There may be some stuff the Excise might be interested in.”
“We are not here to do the Excises’ job for them” responded Amelia, “but I agree that we ought to go and have a look round. The least it will tell us is whether messrs Pablo and Beech are completely above board. We will go tonight.” and before Jane could respond, Amelia turned to her and said “No not you. This is a job for Lord Fauntelroy and Algy.” To her surprise, Jane did not protest. They arranged for Ruddock to have the cab in the usual place at 10.30pm and Ruddock took his leave.” They had not had anything to eat since Breakfast, which seem a long time ago, so decided to take a light lunch.
While they were eating Jane tentatively opened the conversation “You are going with Ruddock tonight to look over the P & B warehouse. I would like to come along.”
“Well you can’t. You don’t have a disguise for a start.”
“Actually, I do have a disguse. After I left Scotland yard yesterday afternoon, I took my brother down to Pimlico market with me. He is about my size and I got him to buy a cast off suit from one of the stalls. I’ll show you,” and she rushed off upstairs returning later with a brown woollen suit with a matching cotton shirt and tie. “I’m going to look really good in this. Well not as good as you in your dinner jacket, but presentable none the less.” Amelia was flabbergasted. “Good heavens. No I still can’t let you come. If we were caught you would immediately thrown out of the police force, and just think what your uncle would say to that, having put so much thought into getting you appointed in the first place.”
Tears started to well up in Jane’s eyes “I am a failure in the police. I have never been accepted by the men. Every day I was subjected to physical violence and verbal abuse. My breasts were pinched, my bottom was slapped, whenever I passed by them and there was endless sexual innuendo, crude and smutty humour and humiliating denigration about by physical strength and stamina. It has worn me out and I do not see any alternative but to leave the service. Inspector Knott and Sergeant Jones seem powerless to stop it. They said something to the men from time to time, and it stopped for a short time, then started up again. Knott has hinted more than once that he would ‘have to let me go’ with words like ‘the Chief Constable is unhappy about having a woman on the force’. When this case came up, they saw an opportunity to kill two (no three actually) birds with one stone by getting those two troublesome spinsters of their hands and me at the same time.”
Amelia looked visibly shocked “And I thought you were doing so well. When they asked me to take the case, I was given the impression that I was asked to take you under my wing to demonstrate that the police were not completely washing their hands of the case and at the same time, giving you necessary training in the detective side of policing. I had no idea of their ulterior motives. But I’m sure you are not a failure. Just look how you saved me when we were threatened by those thugs in the Billiard Hall.”
“I worked very hard on the courses I attended. I concentrated more than the men, and worked harder than them and I always came top of the class. It was my best time in the force. The instructors probably gave me more attention than the men, and there was a lot of resentment and accusations of favouritism, but the instructors came down hard on any bullying, and all the nastiness occurred outside the class room. Working with you has been such a contrast to Scotland Yard. You have treated me with respect at all times and even Ruddock shows me respect.”
“Ah, he treats me with respect because of my class, and follows my lead in treating you with respect. Class trumps gender most of the time.”
“I see. As well of course, I feel I am making a contribution to solving the case, and I feel very proud of my behaviour at the Billiard Hall. It was a really, really good feeling when I took up my defensive pose when threatened, as I was taught to do, without thinking about it. Then I applied the Rule ‘Concentrate on how you will disable your assailant, rather than how he could disable you’. I was good wasn’t I?” and her eyes brightened when Amelia nodded. “I would much rather work for you than stay in the police, if that were possible, and I am determined to join in your nigh time escapades.
Amelia was quite thrown by Jane’s revelations. She had received hints from Jones about what was happening to her, but had been convinced that she would be accepted eventually. Now she had a dilemma. Jane clearly wanted to work with her rather than return to Scotland Yard. How would Ruddock feel about it? There was no question that she could afford to pay Jane a modest salary, but how would the three of them work together. She and Ruddock had gelled immediately when she took up Dr Watson’s recommendation to hire him, and he made her feel safe, especially on the clandestine outings. But, did not the Great Detective feel the need of an Assistant, a role ideally filled by John Watson himself.” Then Amelia noticed Jane looking at her expectantly and realised that she had been thinking her own thoughts and not addressing the implied question from Jane, “Could they work together as a team?” Amelia did not want to make a decision there and then, but she could put it off. “Well Jane, I’m totally shocked by you revelations, and I’m not sure I can answer your question right here and now, but from what you have said, then I will take you along tonight if you are still up for it.” Jane’s face said it all and there was no need for a reply. She would accompany Amelia and Ruddock tonight and the die was cast.
“Do you think my disguise is suitable?”
“Yes, perfect, when we provide you with an appropriate mask. You must hide your face as well as your femininity.”
“Since I have known of your disguise, I have wanted to to know why you chose the attire that you did.”
“That is a very deep question. The way a woman dresses is a symbol of her inferiority status to men in our society. The corset and the bustle are there is restrict a woman’s movement and ensure that she is an object to be admired and put on a pedestal, not to be someone who is active in the public sphere. Our dress has another function as well. The layers of drawers, petticoats and long skirts protect us from unwanted assaults on our virginity!Among the working classes, women are treated as drudges and baby machines. At least in Society, women are treated with respect in public, but behind closed doors they are still considered to be chattels of their husbands. That is why I do not intend to marry. I want to retain my independence. So in Society, I dress as befits a woman of standing, in spite of the restriction and discomfort it brings. The way I dress is an unspoken way of saying that I demand respect. You will notice, that if I, or we, wear the more modern fashion dispensing with bustle and drapes, we are treated with less respect, and yet, the corset and the long skirt still make sure that we are unable to assert our physical presence in an active way, and still appear as mere objects to be admired. When you put on the man’s suit you have bought, you will feel immediately the freedom of movement that comes with it. Am I getting too deep? Would you like me to stop?”
“No, no. Do go on.”
“When I decided to undertake these night time jaunts with Ruddock, I knew that if we were caught, there would be trouble. I don’t know whether you know but I took Ruddock on when he had just come out of jail for robbery, but he promised to be loyal and I have never doubted him. So if I had disguised myself as a woman say with a mask over my face, not only would I have been highly restricted in my movements, but anyone seeing me may have been able to guess my identity, in spite of my mask, because there are so few women crooks. So I decided to disguise myself as a man. My first thought was to dress as a small boy. It would have been an easy disguise, but Ruddock may not have taken notice of my instructions, so I settled for a gentleman about town. I find men in their evening dress very dashing, so I went for that. The top hat is a nuisance, but I have a scarf underneath which holds in my hair and the long, flowing cape covers my female curves very well.”
“Yes, your costume is very dashing and certainly works. When I saw you leave the house the other night, the idea that you were not a man never crossed my mind. The cape also acts to disguise your walk, because as you may have seen at the Music Hall, male impersonators always give themselves away by the way they walk. I will have to practice a manly gait. At some future date, I would so like to have a costume like yours Amelia, but for the present, I will settle for my suit.”
“Good. Let us find you a suitable mask and then we should rest, in preparation for our outing tonight to visit Messers Pablo and Beech’s warehouse.”