As Amelia and Jane left the house, dressed for their night’s work, Amelia turned, “We didn’t decide on a name for your character. Do you have one?”
“My brother is called Ben, perhaps I could call myself that.”
“If you are in the company of Lord Fauntelroy and Algy, you can’t call yourself Ben. It does not fit.”
“Then what about Robin?” and with a laugh Jane went on, “Robin Banks. How’s that?”
“You daft bat” replied Amelia and joined in the laughter. She set off through the garden in front of Jane, who following behind, thought, ‘when she walks like that with her cape flowing behind her, she reminds me of a bat.’ Amelia led the way to the high wall surrounding the garden, pulled out a stone from the wall and removed a key with which she opened the gate. They went through and Amelia locked the gate behind them and replaced the key in the wall, by removing a stone on the outside an inserting it. Together they walked through the small park out onto the Knightsbridge Road, and walked the short distance to where Ruddock was waiting for them in a carriage. Ruddock was a little surprised at Jane, but he decided that if Amelia was dressed as a man, then it made sense for Jane to be a man as well. He decided not to think too much about how he was going to deal with two women if they ran into trouble, but then it was up to them what level of risk they took and they seemed quite happy.
The carriage left the smart residential areas of the London suburbs and down into docklands. They stopped short of the Pablo and Beech Warehouse, and the three of them set off carefully round the corner and down the road. As usual Ruddock had ‘cased the joint’ and too them unerringly past the main shuttered doors to a small alley at the side and a small door a few steps down. It was quite dark in the alley and Ruddock light the lamp, then closed the shutters. Amelia lifted her cape just to make sure the light did not spill onto the road, and whilst Jane held the lamp, Roddock got to work with his keys. Ho soon found the right one, let them in and locked the door behind them. They opened the shutters of the lamp and look round at row after row of packing cases and pallets with their contents covered in tarpaulin. Amelia had taught Jane that they should speak directly into each others’ ears. That way they would be heard, even if they spoke in whispers. “The first thing we should do is look at the stored items to see if they are labelled and if that will tell us anything, but looking around us, there is so much how are we to know what we are looking for even if we find it? Anyway, let’s look around and get the feel of the place. Then we can perhaps find the office and see what records they keep.” Amelia and Jane took the lamp and started down a row. Ruddock slid into the darkness and found what he could using the light from the street and a wan moon. The place was an Aladdin’s cave. There were crates from India, cotton goods, dress materials, tea chests and numerous assorted items. Amelia was amazed just how many products did come from India. During her time there she had known nothing about the massive trade that went on between the two countries. However, their interests were in trade with Italy and soon, walking into another aisle they spied Italian writing on the cases. Here was knitwear, tiles, wine and then rifles. They did not appear to be in a section on their own and looking at the dates on the crates Amelia decided that cases were stored in the order that they arrived. They found no cases labelled for export and decided that they would be in another part of the warehouse. Amelia concentrated on the labels on the cases listed to contain rifles. Although the writing was in Italian, the meaning was generally clear. The number and type were listed along with the name and address of the supplier, who they knew to be Fellini, Milan, the carriers, Shaw’s (Amelia knew them of old – it was a small world indeed!) and the destination, The Army Munitions Depot, Aldershot. They counted six boxes altogether and on casual inspection there was no indication that any of the cases were destined for an alternative destination. My Fellini had been adamant that he had dispatched from Milan the number of rifles he said he had and the Ministry of War was just as adamant that they had received no more than half the number for which they had placed the order. Amelia looked round for Ruddock. She thought that she would mark the cases with the intention of perhaps tracing them to see if they reached their true destinations. Ruddock produced a knife and Amelia marked the label, then on two sides (front and back) of the cases themselves. This took some minutes and the inactivity started to make Ruddock nervous. She detected his mood and when she had finished, returned the knife and said “Let us just see if we can find some relevant records in the office. They looked round and saw a row of offices on the first floor on both sides of the warehouse with steps leading up to them. Amelia was just beginning to decide which row to tackle first, when they all froze. They heard a key in the lock of the door, it opened and there was the sound of men’s voices. Amelia pulled Jane with her behind a pile of pallets and they both crouched down. Had they been spotted or were the men coming here a pure co-incidence. Certainly Amelia had not checked with Ruddock whether he had checked whether people came here at night, and she cursed herself under her breath for her error. On the bright side, there were only three of them so they should be able easily to escape detection. Also, they may be up to no good themselves and she indicated to Jane to stay quiet and wait. For her part, Jane had her hand on her trusty truncheon hidden in deep in the pocket of her trousers. Amelia glanced round but there was no sign of Ruddock. The three men hung around for a time, one of them lit a cigarette. They were not far away, but they hidden women could not pick up anything they were saying, until one said “I hear the cart”, he went to the door and checked, returned and said “Its here. Let’s get him and get out of here.” They moved off down one of the aisles and very carefully, Amelia and Jane followed at a safe distance. After a while the men stopped. One of them bent down and removed a padlock from a trapdoor in the floor, which not one of the watchers had spotted previously. They lifted the door and two of the men clattered down the stone steps and disappeared into the depths. The third man stood at the top of the steps holding a lantern. It would have been easy to rush the man, push him down the steps and lock him in, but there seemed no point and Amelia touched Jane’s arm to indicate that they should stay still. Loud noises, arguing and screams started to come from the cellar and the two men reappeared holding tightly to a third man between them, who was struggling violently. Amelia saw briefly in the lamp’s light the face of the struggling man, and drew in a sharp breath. It was Richard Garstang. She was sure. She had looked at his picture often enough since this case began! She had to make a rapid decision. Should they make a surprise attack and rescue him there and then or wait and try to follow where he was being taken. At least in the second case they would find out another hiding place of Pablo and Beech, but lots of things could go wrong. Strike while the iron is hot! Jane was ahead of her. She had also seen the man’s face, and although she did not recognise him, she had heard Amelia’s intake of breath and felt her body stiffen. Her trusty truncheon was already nesting comfortingly in her hand. The man who had stayed at the top of the stairs slung a desultory punch at the struggling man, who called out in pain when the blow struck, then lifted and replaced the trapdoor and lock it. Then the four of them headed back up the warehouse towards the door. Amelia and Jane froze as they passed within a few feet of their hiding place. Amelia waited until they were past and had their backs to them then, hoping fervently that Ruddock was watching, signaled to Jane, and all hell broke loose! Amelia launched herself forward and struck the leading man who was carrying the lamp, firmly on the back of the legs with her cane. He fell to his knees and the lamp fell to the ground but stayed upright and alight. Jane dispatched the nearer of the two men holding Robert, with one well aimed blow of her truncheon. The man fell and Robert cannoned into her, with the result that she was unable to get near the man on the far side, who having seen Amelia fly at the first man, went for her. Amelia turned to face his onslaught, but was not fast enough and his blow caught her on the side of her head and knocked her to the ground. Unfortunately for the man Ruddock and Jane arrived at him simultaneously and he went down under a hail of punches and hits. Ruddock then dispatched the man on his knees as he struggled to get up with a punch and it was all over.
They turned to Robert who was making a desperate but feeble attempt to flee. Ruddock and Jane grabbed him. He struggled but Amelia who had regained her feet and her composure, stood in front of him. “Robert Garstang” she enquired. He nodded. “My name is Lord Fauntelroy and I have come to rescue you from your imprisonment. Please come with us.” Amelia turned and headed for the door. The three men were beginning to stir and groan. They would not be out long. She opened the door and looked out. Blocking the end of the alley was a coach. She quickly dodged back in “There is a coach at the end of the alley” she told the others, “There will probably be more men inside. What shall we do? Is there another way out?” Ruddock replied “The only other way out I know is through the main doors and we would be caught if we tried to get out that way. M’lud (he stopped himself from saying ‘Amelia’ just in time) you will have to go and persuade them to move the carriage so we can leave! Don’t ask how. I don’t know, but I’m sure you will think of something. You always do!” Amelia smiled at him and Jane and received smiles in return. There was not a moment to lose.If any of the men woke up enough to raise the alarm they were done for anyway. Amelia stepped out into the alley, and began walking with a confidence she did not feel towards the coach. She rapped her cane on the ground as she walked and it gave a reassuring resonating sound against the walls and along the alleyway. As she approached the coach, she veered away from the door and towards the coachman. “My man” she said addressing the coachman and waving her cane, “you need to move along, clear of the passage so that we can load what we have come for.” A head popped out of the coach window, “What’s going on?” a voice asked. Amelia could see the rump of the nearest horse. She gave it a smart blow with her cane and said “Giddy up” or some such thing. The horse reacted immediately and taking the second horse with it, they set off at a smart pace down the road, with the coachman doing his best to stay in his seat. She turned and gestured to the others. As it happened they had anticipated events and were half way down the alley already. They turned into the road back towards their coach which fortunately was in the opposite direction to the felons’. They were slow because Ruddock and Jane had to support Robert, who was very weak. After what seemed an age, they finally made it and clambered in. Amelia issued orders to the coachman just before she got in. They set off and together they heaved a sigh of relief. It had been a hectic and frightening few minutes. Amelia, recovering herself addressed Robert. “I and my colleagues were ordered by Amelia Ecclestone, the Private Consulting Detective, to rescue you if we could. Miss Ecclestone has been retained by you sisters to find you. They were of course, beside themselves with worry about your disappearance. But you are safe now. I have ordered the coachman to drop me off at my home, and these two, Algy and” she hesitated “Robin” Jane grinned “to take you to Miss Ecclestone’s house where she will put you up for the night. In the morning you can tell the police all that has happened to you and hopefully they will apprehend the culprits.” Robert tried to respond “But it is very important that we act quickly. A great fraud is about to be carried out and we only have 24 hrs to stop it.”
“Don’t upset yourself for the moment. When you reach Miss Ecclestone’s house, you will be able to tell your story soon enough.” Robert fell silent. The coachman dropped Amelia at the entrance to the park on Knightsbridge Road and with a swirl of her cape she was gone. As instructed, he continued to drive round for quarter of an hour, then returned to the entrance to Conaught Mews and dropped his passengers. Ruddock and Jane helped Robert across along the short footpath, rang the bell and entered the house. Mary and Joseph had been alerted and helped Robert up the stairs into Amelia’s consulting room. Ruddock and Jane took their leave, Ruddock to head off to Scotland Yard to report and Jane to disappear and transform ‘Robin’ into Jane Wilks, assistant to Amelia Ecclestone.
Amelia appeared in her night dress covered by a flowing dressing gown. She welcomed Robert “I was woken with a message that you are Robert Garstang and tonight you have been rescued by the people who carry out my ‘dirty work’ as they call it. you look all in. Do you want something to eat? Some soup, cold meat, a stiff drink? ” He nodded. Amelia rang for Mary and asked her to bring Robert some soup and something to eat. Then she poured Robert a brandy. “Apparently you were discovered in the Pablo and Beech warehouse in docklands. How did you come to be there? Was it Pablo and Beech who kidnapped you?” Robert finished the brandy, coughed and replied “I can tell you what happened but it is much more important to stop them. They are about to defraud the British Government out of around a quarter of a million pounds and it is all going to happen tomorrow. I cannot stress too much that now is the time to act.” Mary brought the soup and a selection of meat and bread. “Eat now and we can talk later. I am sure that someone will have gone to inform the police, but it is unlikely that they will take much action before tomorrow and anyway Government offices are closed overnight.” As Robert was eagerly eating his soup, Amelia said “I will go and make sure that there is a bed prepared for you to sleep in and we can make an early start in the morning.” She was clear that she was not going to get any more explanation out of him that night and she left the room. She met Jane in her nightdress on the way out, and was given a very brief rundown of the night’s activities. She indicated for Jane to keep an eye on Robert and went off to sort out a bedroom for him. When she returned a few minutes later Robert had finished his soup and was fast asleep on the couch in her room. She told Jane that it was better for him to be left to sleep and that they should get a good night’s rest. It was apparent that there would be a lot to do on the morrow, which now was not far off.