Chapter 12 – At Scotland Yard
Amelia felt better in the morning but was rather slow coming down for breakfast and by the time she appeared there were two messages waiting for her. The first was a plaintive one for Alice asking how she was anc could they meet up soon. This cheered up Amelia who realised that actually she did have friends and her closest was Alice. She determined to visit her at the earliest opportunity. The second message was from Robert Garstang saying that he would call around to see her that afternoon. A bit of a cheek thought Amelia. He had not asked but just assumed that she would be free. Nevertheless she would find it interesting to catch up with him and she was pleased that he had recovered enough to visit her. She had been informed that he was dedicated to his work, so he may be wanting to get started on representing Fellini in the upcoming battle with the War Department.
The most important thing for her to do by far, she though to herself as she took a quick breakfast washed down with tea was to beard Inspector Knott in his lair at Scotland Yard and tell him of her discovery. “He is bound to demand to know where I got the information from,” she said aloud as she put on her bonnet. She looked at herself in the mirror. “Although I say it myself, this dress does suit me.” (she was wearing her royal blue bustle dress with endless folds at the front.) “But then I am so vain and Knott is not impressed with assertive women anyway. Maybe I should wear black whenever I go to see him.” The mere thought made her shudder. Joseph had found her a cab which was waiting patiently at the entrance to Conaught Mews. She strode through the archway and into the cab.
Her face was familiar enough at Scotland Yard by now for her to be greated with a smile and salute by the officers manning the doors. She went into the entrance hall and up to the Desk. “I would like to see Inspector Knott, please. I have some very important and urgent information for him.”
The Sergeant raised an eyebrow. “I am not sure that he is free at the moment, Miss Ecclestone” and as she bristled, which caused her silk dress and underskirts to rustle like an angry rattle snake, went on “Please wait, I will send someone to see if he is available. Will you take a seat over there and he indicated a bench across the hall. Amelia agreed and a Constable was dispatched. He returned after a few minutes, during which time Amelia figeted on the bench. He reported to the Sergeant, whose face fell and he looked very embarassed as he indicated for Amelia to return to the desk. “I’m afraid Inspector Knott is not available at the moment. He will be free in about an hour.”
Amelia became very still. “I have to tell you, that the information I have, may well cost the Government a quarter of a million pounds if not acted on immediately. If the Yard cannot explain why you ignored my report, the Government may take their lost money from your budget.” She leaned close to the Sergeant and dropped her voice “I would go so far as to say that Inspector Knott’s job would be in jeapardy. Clearly if the Yard were to lose such a large amount of their budget then they would be looking fora scapegoat . . . ” and she raised her eyebrow knowingly. “Perhaps there is someone else I can speak to. I’m afraid that it is very urgent and there should not be one moment’s delay. ”
The Sergeant turned to his colleague “Look after the Desk for a while Walters. I won’t be long.” He came out from behind the desk and indicated to Amelia, “Please follow me and we will see if we can find you someone to talk to.” He set off at a measured pace down the corridor familar to Amelia as leading to the office of Sergeant Jones and Woman Constable Wilks. He walked into another office along the corridor took her towards a desk. As they passed everyone of the people sitting at the desks looked up as they passed and a general murmer followed them. He indicated to Amelia to wait, went forward to one of the desks and spoke in urgent tones to the man sitting there. The officer stood up and the Sergeant made the introductions “This is Detective Sergeant Fenton – this is Miss Amelia Ecclestone.” He turned and left with an audible sigh of relief. Fuller smiled at Amelia. “Please follow me and we can go into an interview room where we will not be disturbed.” He was quite a young man, Amelia noticed and he also took note of the fact that he was clearly looking at her with a mixture of admiration and awe. He led her to a room, pointed to a chair, asked if she wanted a cup of tea, and ordered it when she said “Yes”. He shut the door and sat down at the other side of the small table and took out his notebook and pencil. “Now. What is it that you have to tell me?”
Amelia was not sure just where to start. It was a long story and she was short of time. “The crux of the matter is, that two men, a Mr Beech and a Mr Pablo import rifles manufactured by an Italian Company owned by a Mr Fellini. I can explain the detail later, but it turns out that the War Department handed over $250,000 worth of Transferable Bonds to Beech and Pablo who they expected to hand straight over to Fellini, but they have absconded with the Bonds and I have information that they are to take the Cunard steamship from Southampton in two day’s time bound for America with their ill-gotten gains. They must be stopped”.
Fenton had been writing quickly. He put down his pencil and looked across at Amelia. “This sounds a very serious matter, if what you told me is correct, but it is complex. Please can I take you through it again just so that I understand?” Amelia’s heart dropped. Had this Fenton been chosen to keep her quiet by dragging out her interview until she became disillusioned and gave up? Well he would not get away with it and she was steeling herself for a long session, when the door burst open and she was surprised to see Knott come into the room. “Miss Ecclestone. How nice to meet you again” he said in voice that clearly meant the opposite.”I hope you are not wasting Fenton’s time.”
“Certainly not!” she responded. Knott had the nack of annoying her without trying very hard. “I was just telling your nice Sergeant here about the Fellini case.”
“Yes I know what you have come about. I do wish that you would ask for me directly instead of asking to speak to one of my Sergeants.” Amelia looked daggers at him, but he ignored her and went on. “I understand that you have some important and urgent information for me. Now what is it?” The watching Sergeant was flabbergasted at the tone of this interchange and he was very relieved that he was not in the middle of it, although he was not confident that he would not get the sharp edge of Knott’s tongue at the end of it.
Amelia was cool now. For all his nastiness, Knott at least knew what was going on and she would be able to get her points over quickly. She pushed the note she had made across in front of Knott. “I found this in the Beech and Pablo’s office. It is a confirmation of a booking for the day after tomorrow for a Mr and Mrs Muldoon on the steamer from Southampton to America.”
“So what has that got to do with the price of bread?” he asked with a leer.
“I believe that one of them, probably Pablo, will be disguised as a woman and the two of them will pass themselves off as the Muldoons.”
“Have you any evidence for your dubious theory?”
Amelia did not feel so confident under this cross examination, in the cold light of day, when it seemed so obvious last night. “The police in Liverpool did not apprehend Beech and Pablo when they took the ferry to Ireland.”
“If they did that is.”
“What I would like you to do, is to ask Liverpool to check the manifests of the Ireland ferries on the day in question to see if there were a Mr and Mrs Muldoon on board. At the very least you can arrange for them to be interviewed when they embark at Southampton. If they are genuine then the all that is lost is a bi of police time – – -”
“That’s the trouble with you so-called Private Detectives,” he interrupted “You come up with these fantasies then expect us to waste our time proving them wrong.”
“On the other hand”, she persevered “if you do catch them red-handed then you will have saved the government a quarter of a million dollars and the gratitude of the nation.” She paused and look him full in the eye. Wow, she was winning she thought to herself.
Knott addressed the Sergeant, “Its a long shot. Get on to Liverpool and ask them to look for the Muldoons.” Fenton left, relieved to get out of the charged atmosphere. If this is a wild goose chase, young lady, I will have you for wasting police time.”
She gave him her most winning smile “How are Jones and Wilks getting on in Ireland?” she asked changing the subject.
“They have not arrested the felons, if that’s what you’re asking. They visited the glassware company that the packing cases we discovered” (an exaggeration thought Amelia, lord Fauntelroy did that!) “were addressed to, but no one there admitted that they had received any such things. However, they knew about Beech and Pablo and had regular dealings with them; Italian and English porceline which they matched their glassware to, so there must have been someone on their staff who was diverting the cases, but Jones decided that a Welsh detective and an English police officer were not really the right people to get to the bottom of it and have left it to the local police. now if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to what I was doing, before you so rudely interupted me.” There was a knock at the door. Thinking it was Fenton coming back, Knott said “That was quick” but when he turned as the door opened, it was a constable “I just thought to know sir – — – ” his voice dropped as Knott reached him and Amelia heard no more. When Knott turned round, Amelia could not make out the expression on his face. He returned to his seat at the table. Was there a smile playing at the corners of his mouth? It was certainly a different tone when he spoke. “Now dear lady; you came in here with a cock and bull story about one of our villains dressing as a women and them passing themselves off as a married couple, based on nothing more than a note supposedly copied from a letter from Cunard. What is interesting is that you came in today, claiming you got this from Beech and Pablo’s office and now I have just heard that in a man bound to a chair and gagged has been discovered in that very same office. I know you are a great admirer of Sherlock Holmes and I’m sure he would say that this is far too much of a co-incidence. Would you like to give me an explanation Miss Ecclestone?” he paused and waited. Amelia knew she was in a hole and would have to lie in a way that would stand up under cross-examination.
“What is it you want to know?”
“Did you go to the office last night and what do you know about the man we found there?”
“I don’t know anything about it. Last night if you must know, I suddenly missed having Jane Wilks with me. She has been my constant companion throughout this case and I didn’t realise how much I missed her until last night. Actually, I spent most of the evening writing up my case notes then went to bed as usual.”
“Did you leave the house last night?”
“No. I’ve just told you, I went to bed.”
Is there anyone who could confirm that?”
“I don’t think so. The servants went to bed as usual as far as I know and they sleep on the top floor of the house, but you will have to ask them yourself.”
“I think we will leave the matter there for the moment. I left quite a number of outstanding cases to come and talk to you and I have to get back to them” He smiled, a smile which appeared almost genuine “I have to tell you, I didn’t get where I am today wichout learning how to spot lying when I see it. Just be warned, but now I really must go.” and without giving Amelia the chance to respond he turned and walked out, saying over his shoulder “I have ordered Jones and Wilks to return to England. There wokr is finished over there. Fenton will escort you out of the building.”
Sergeant Fenton took obvious pleasure taking Amelia to the entrance and said goodbye. Amelia feeling quite dirty from the lies she had been forced to tell went home as fast as the cab would carry her and into the security of No 1 Conaught Mews.