Chapter 10 – Another Clandestine Operation
Once Ruddock had left Conaught Mews, Amelia retired for a couple of hours to be refreshed for the coming night’s activities. Surprisingly, she slept well in spite of her excitement about what she had planned, which probably demonstrated how tired she was after all her morning racing around. Just as it was beginning to get dark, Mary came in to wake her carrying a tray with a pot of tea and some cake. Amelia welcomed the tea, but refused the cake. Once she was up, she would have something more substantial to eat before dressing for her jaunt. She asked Mary to prepare her a cold buffet, then having finished her cup of tea, got up, washed and dressed. Her mind was already working on the plan for the night. She was far from certain that the villains had made any mistakes and even less certain that she would find anything, but she knew logic was on her side. In any walk of life and criminality was no exception, people made mistakes and she had to set her mind to carry out a thorough search of the office to find it. There was no such thing as a perfect crime. She ate her fill of the ham, cheese and bread which Mary had rustled up and washed it down with half a flaggon of ale.
A few minutes before 10.30, Amelia wearing her mask, cape and carrying her cane, left the house by the back door, through the gate in her garden wall, across the small park and down the street to the waiting cab. She always relished the freedom she felt when wearing men’s attire rather than her corset and she flicked her cape with pleasure. The walk to the cab always raised her excitment level and fired her up for the evening’s work. Ruddock was not so keen. not having had the opportunity to survey the office in daylight, he wa unsure of what he had to do to gain entry. He also knew that Amelia would push him to take risks outside his comfort zone. She sensed his nervousness but brushed it aside. This may be their one and only chance to search the office and she was not going to et it go by without a major effort. As usual the cab was halted just round the corner from their target. Most of the houses in the street had been turned into offices. It was very conveniently situated not far from a number of Government Departments and the Houses of Parliament and was favoured by businesses such as Pablo and Beech, who had many dealings with government. The layout of the properties had a difficulty. There was no way to access the rear. The imposing front doors, with their prestigeous brass plates on a door post, were up 4 steps, so that each house had a basement, part of which was below street level and wa accessed through a small gate in the surrounding railing. When they had located the Pablo and Beech office plate, Ruddock after a quick glance up and down the street to make sure the coast was clear, ran down the steps with Amelia close behind. He found a window, in shadow from the street lamp by the steps and went to work. Soon he had it open and jumped up to lever himself inside. Amelia was unable to jump the height required, so he found a chair, passed it through the window, and Amelia climbed in not very elegantly she had to admit. Ruddock retrieved the chair and closed the window. They had brought a selection of matches, candles and a shaded lamps. Ruddock lit the lamp and Amelia raised her cape to shield the glow from the street. He led the way upstairs. Their first objective was to find the main office which turned out to be on the first floor. He was unhappy. They had given no consideration to an escape route if they were discovered, and it would not be easy to leave quickly by the route they had come in and it would not be difficult to cut them off. All he could do was hope his worst fears would not be realised.
Once they had located the main office, Amelia had a quick first look round. There numerous files and ledgers round the walls. There was a small safe against one wall. She leaned over and spoke in a whisper into Ruddock’s ear. “Can you open it?” she asked. He looked at it. There were two key holes in the door and not a combination lock much to his relief. He indicated his key belt to her and whispered back. “I’ll try. I don’t see why not.” He turned and knelt down in front of the door. Where should Amelia start, she asked herself? She was familiar with booking keeping and so decided to start with the ledgers. She folded her cape back over each shoulder, so that it would not get in the way, and looked at the shelf. The ledgers were arranged in date order, a good start thought Amelia and the sign of a tidy mind. As an afterthought, before she got down to serious study, she looked to see if there were any ledgers lying around. There were none. She remembered the dates of the transactions of the rifle both into and out of the warehouse and very quickly found them in the ledger. As she had thought, the export of the porceline to Ireland fitted within the timescales she had deduced. She also noted that there was no record of the proceline coming into the warehouse, only going out. There was something ‘fishy’ about those porceline sales and they were linked to the missing rifles. However, this only confirmed what she had suspected and although quite pleased with herself it did not take her further forward in tracking down the villains. She turned to Ruddock to see how he was getting on, but he was still hunched over the safe, which remained stubbornly locked. To pass the time, she investigated a few of the files, and although they shone light on how Pablo had painstakingly built up his business with the War Department were not of much else, although it did occur to Amelia, that in carrying out the fraud on the WD he was jeapodising all the work he had done building up the business. Then again £250,000 was a lot of money if he could get away with it. Her musings were interrupted by a quiet cough from Ruddock. He turned to her with a smile on his face and proudly displayed the open door of the safe. Amelia inspected its contents. There were some notes in various denominations, some coins and a postage stamps, all that you would expect for petty cash, but what really intrigued her were a bundle of papers loosly wrapped in pink ribbon. She got them out, put the packet on the table and opened loosed the knot. There were some confidential papers and quite a few rather juicy ones. ‘Were they used to balckmail people” she thought. There were a couple of quite assertive, one could say quite aggresive from Robert Garstang on behalf of Mr Fellini. She wondered if they contained anything that would help her, but beyond, she imagined, making Pablo and Beech angry enough to kidnap Robert they were no help.
Then she found what she was looking for, although she did not realise it at first. It was a letter from the Cunard Steamship Company, thanking Mr and Mrs Muldoon for their booking and payment, and confirming their passage to America for, she checked the date five days hence. Now why would there be a letter in the safe of Messrs Pablo and Beech making a steamship booking to America at such an appropriate time. Then she remembered. Scotland Yard had telegraphed the Liverpool Police to try and apprend the villains at Lime Street station or boarding the Irish ferry and they had failed in both. It was short notice, and they did not have a picture of either of the villains, but what if one of them had managed to dress herself as a woman, Mrs Muldoon in fact, they would have stood no chance at all. A search of the manifest of the Irish ferry would confirm her suspicions and Amelia could not wait to find out. Was this their mistake, leaving the letter in the safe? Certainly the tickets were not there. Just in case the villains returned to the office, although she thought there was very little chance of them doing so, she copied out the details of the letter, returned it to the package, tied the pink string and replaced it in the safe. She had just completed that when they both heard a sound at the precisely the same time and froze. There was someone else in the building. “Damn,” thought Amelia, ” I have just found something which could help apprehend the criminals and now we could be caught ourselves. Footsteps approached the door, which thankfully they and closed, but there was no time to close an lock the safe. They put their prepared plan into action. Ruddock positioned himself silently behind the door. Amelia grabbed her cane, shook her shoulders so that her cape fell over her, hiding her figure and the cane and stood where she could be seen from the door, half facing it. The door opened very slowly and she heard a gasp of surprise. She turned to face the intruder. As far as she could see he was alone as he advance towards her. She inclined her head, and that was the last thing the man saw as Ruddock hit him smartly over the head and he fell to the ground. ”
“Now what are we to do” whispered Amelia “There could be others.” Ruddock poked his head carefully round the door and look into the corridor. He shook his head to show that there was no one there. “I don’t like this turn of events,” she whispered, “Let’s tie him up and get out of here. If he hasn’t got free by the morning he will have a lot of questions to answer.” She was slightly annoyed that Ruddock had hit him so hard that he would be out for some time. She would have loved to know who he was and why he was there. She certainly did not recognise him. However at this point she wa most keen to get out of the place. They were very vulnerable and she had what she thought was some vital information which would help them apprehend the criminals. It took them a bit of time to get out, Amelia being as inelegant as she was getting in through the window. Ruddock closed it and they reached the waiting cab without further difficulty. once inside, she heaved a sigh of relief and gave Ruddock a huge smile. He had been as loyal as usual despite his reservations. She gave him a peck on the cheek as she alighted from the cab, said they should meet tomorrow, and returned to the house the way she had come. She was excited. What would the morrow bring? Disappointment if her discovery was a red herring and irrelevant, or the vital key which would lead to the apprehension of the villains! She could only hope.
It was only when she lay in bed in the dark that she was struck with a great feeling of lonliness. She missed Jane. She remembered that the last time she had adoped the persona of Lord Fauntelroy Jane had been her companion Robin for the first time. She remenbered how excited Jane was at the thought of going off to Dublin without her. Jane had matured quickly from her’plain Jane’ image at Scotland Yard. When she came to Amelia on a temporary basis, she was tough and brave but totally lacking in social graces or had any confidence in social situations. In the few short weeks she had been with Amelia, she had brightened her image and far more confident. Amelia was sure that almost the whole of her improvement had been as a result of her, Amelia’s schooling. Until now, in the dark, she had not realised that the process had been two way and she had come to rely on Jane and treat her as a valuable companion, in a way that the ever loyal Ruddock could never be. Now she finally realised that she would be heartbroken if Jane were to leave, even if it was to strike out on her own. Until now, she had look upon Jane as her social and intellectual inferiour, but the relationship had developed into a more equal one without her noticing, and only now did she realise that she enjoyed this new situation very much and did not want to lose it. Her face became wet with tears. She buried her face in the pillow and cried herself to sleep.