In all the Jeeves stories, I believe there is only one that is told in the third person. Time for a challenge – this takes place some time before Bartholomew Judas Rhymaes met Gladys Pugh…
The apartment was spotless, spick and span, so clean you could eat your breakfast off the table if Jayes had allowed it. He would have it no other way – in his role as Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman to the Honourable Bartholomew J Rhymaes, Bart, he exercised perfection in all things, both domestic and professional. In fact, as he looked around the modern apartment, Jayes was reminded of the old maxim “Tidy room, tidy mind.”
This particular spring day, Jayes was putting away some small items, while his employer was discoursing on a subject close to his heart…
“Jayes, I tell you she is perfection incarnate.” Barty reclined on the sofa, reading the newspapers in his dressing gown, as was his practice to do so. It was important to know who was where and dating who – you never knew when such knowledge would come in handy.
“I understand your opinion of the young lady,” Jayes said as he turned round, “but one must view the complete picture sir.”
“Meaning,” Barty said as he looked over at Jayes, erect and alert in his dark suit and white shirt with black tie.
“Well, one must always remember, sir, that she is American.” Not that Jayes was prejudiced against those who hailed from across the Atlantic – he merely recognised certain issues came with them.
“American Schmerican as they might say in jolly old New York, I’m telling you Jayes that Miss Annabel Richmond is any man’s ideal of the perfect woman.”
“Can I take it from that sir,” he said quietly, “that she’s blonde, beautiful, and most importantly an heiress?”
“She and her young brother will between them inherit twenty-five million dollars Jayes, but that is irrelevant. Miss Richmond is just so beautiful that I think half the club would marry her today, fortune or not.”
Jayes smiled as he said “Well as you yourself say sir, she does indeed sound perfect.”
“I tell you Jayes I think I’m jolly well in love.”
Jayes merely raised an eyebrow and said “Again sir…”
“All those other times didn’t count Jayes, they were trifles, mere affection, this is different. I am willing to tell the whole world I’m in love with Miss Richmond.”
“Might I enquire as to the source of the young ladies fortune sir?”
“Property Jayes, lovely expensive Manhattan real estate. Seems her Grandfather brought up whatever he could when he moved there from Ireland, and her family has been buying more and more and getting richer and richer ever since.”
“That is indeed a most felicitatious story sir. Perhaps there is indeed a possibility of a romantic engagement.”
“Isn’t it just Jayes…isn’t it just?” Barty leaned backwards and sipped his mid morning cup of tea.
“As we are discussing financial matters, sir, I wished to ask if you had any plans for replenishing the coffers?”
“One or two ideas, Jayes, one or two. I shall consult in due course, but for now lead me to the bath – I have an appointment at the club this afternoon.”
“Of course sir, may I suggest the light grey suit today?”
“As you wish Jayes, as you wish.”
Not a million miles away from Mayfair, but in an altogether far less salubrious place tucked somewhere behind Regent Street and Oxford Street, a conversation of an altogether different kind was taking place in the jewellery store of one Saul Isaacs. The sign over his door might claim that Mr. Isaacs was a purveyor of fine diamonds to the gentry, what it did not reveal was the source of such diamonds resulting from what many might describe as the lower strata of London society.
Take for example the young woman currently to be found in the backroom of the establishment. She might be dressed something like a lady, in a long coat over a grey dress, but her awful attempt at the accent of the upper classes revealed to anyone with half an ear that her origins lie in altogether a different milieu, and that despite her perfectly bobbed black hair, this young woman was certainly not an English lady of quality.
“They are worth two thousand Isaacs. I know it, you know it.” The woman said grimly as she held on tightly to the diamond necklace.
“They might be worth that to Lord Ordford,” Isaacs said quietly, “ they might be worth that to his insurance company, but how am I going to sell these gems for anything like that.”
“So what will you offer me?”
“Are you joking?” The woman stood up.
“What were you thinking?”
“You bleedin’ well ‘ave to be joking yerself…Five Hundred.”
“Seven Hundred and that’s my final offer.”
“Seven fifty…and maybe I need find a better fence?”
“Your breakin’ me ‘eart Ghost…alright it’s a deal.”
The woman smiled as the jeweler counted out the bank notes. “It’s a pleasure doing business with you Mr. Isaacs.” She looked content as she exchanged the diamonds for the cash.
“Keep bringing jewels like that, and you can come any time,” Isaacs said as she walked out.
Five minutes later, Isaacs looked up from the counter to see a tall man walk in, wearing a dark suit with the collar turned up, and a scarf round his neck, pulled up to cover his face.
“Well, well, you came again,” Isaacs said as he opened the counter. “What do you have for me this time?”
He placed a small valise on the table and opened it, Isaacs looking in and taking out some candlesticks. “Excellent – come away through.”
The Antilles Club, off Pall Mall, was the place to be if you were a young gentleman about town, of reasonable income and plenty of time. The entrance was a typical white marble and mahogany door affair, with a liveried doorman outside under the marble upheld cover, but anyone passing was more likely to hear the latest jazz sounds coming out, or the “vue haloo” of a hunting party.
As Barty walked in that morning, he ducked to avoid the flight of bread rolls, and walked into the bar.
“Afternoon, Watkins – the usual please.”
“Very good, sir,” the barman said as Barty looked round, and spotted a friendly face through a door. Taking up the liquid refreshment, he walked over, neatly dodging the canes set to trip him.
“Bongo old thing.” Barty cheerfully greeted his old school chum as he sat down in the club smoking room.
“Oh hello Barty.” Lord David Fitzstuart said in a monotone, looking morose as he sat there reflecting on the chances and misfortunes of life.
“You look like you’ve lost a five pound note and found a farthing Bongo.”
“I have Barty, haven’t you read the newspapers?”
“Just the racing pages old boy. I got a nice winner at jolly old Hirst Park”
“Oh that I was that lucky,” Bongo said as he raised his hands up, “my father’s threatening to cut me off without a penny.”
“What’s the old lion caught you doing this time?”
“Mater’s diamond necklace got jolly well pinched last night from Ordford House.”
“That was a trifle unfortunate, but why does the old gentleman blame you?”
“Well I got a trifle squiffy at Beetle McDonald’s party at the Tontom club last night…”
“I know old thing, I was there as well, but that doesn’t explain anything.”
“Well it seems that the thief was able to gain access through an open window…”
“Oh that’s bad luck, but again how does that get you threatened yet again with ruin?”
“Well it might just have been the window I climbed back in through, and that just maybe I forgot to close it.”
“Oh that’s damned unfortunate what?”
“Exactly…could have happened to any chap, but the lion has taken it in his head that it was all my fault.”
“Hard luck old thing, here let me buy you a W and S.” Barty signaled to one of the waiters.
“The damned thing is, I could have sworn I did close it Barty – I just don’t know what happened…”
A short distance from the Mall, the crowd at the Star was quietly talking, enjoying the early evening. The local bar, it was a sociable place, one a certain tall, imposing man knew well from his childhood.
“So how go things with young Mr. Rhymaes Mr. Jayes?” Jack the landlord of the Star asked as Jayes supped happily on a pint of Skinners Best in the snug.
“As always tolerably well Jack.” Jayes stood at the bar. “He is a most amenable employer, and the opportunities that arise in his daily life are always either amusing or profitable – and often both.”
“Did you read the Evening News Mr. Jayes, about that diamond necklace getting removed from Ordford House?”
“I did Jack, most unfortunate, I also heard something from the horse’s mouth so to speak. Mr. Rhymaes having spent the afternoon consoling Lord David Fitzstuart on his unfortunate role in the whole affair.”
“From what I read they all but invited The Ghost in, fancy leaving a window open like that?”
“Fancy that indeed Jack, it was as you said all but an invitation.”
To Jayes, the open window was not a true method of entry – a true artist would affect an entry no matter what the circumstances. But he did admire the skill and guile. As he supped on his pint, he wondered if The Agency would have any suggestions as to who this thief – The Ghost – was.
He would like to buy him a drink.
Romulo’s was full of bright young things, being bright young things. Champagne was flowing like the water down the Thames, though with slightly more sparkle and joie de vivre, and the in house band were playing the latest show tunes. Barty and Bongo were sat at a table, looking at the dance floor, and especially a blonde haired girl, tall and thin, her hair cut in the latest bob fashion and wearing a tight black dress that came to her knees.
“Look at her Bongo, the Goddess I adore dancing with that stinker Hughson.”
Alasdair Hughson was the prospective Tory candidate for Knightsbridge, and held himself in a very high opinion – far higher than many of his contemporaries. At the Antilles, he was the three times winner of the “most likely to end up looking at you from the magistrate’s chair on Boat Night” award – not that he ever called to collect it. Tall, slicked back black hair, and an air of insufferable superiority.
“Which goddess Barty,” the rather unsteady Lord David mumbled as he tried to focus his eyes.
“Miss Richmond old thing, the woman I am going to marry,” Barty’s voice trailed off wistfully as she looked at him laughing with Hughson.
“The Yankee heiress? Good luck there Barty, half the fortune hunters in London are chasing her like a jolly old fox that has bolted out from cover.” Lord David thought hard for a second, not something that came easily to him even when not in his cups, and in this state likely to cause his head to ache. “Maybe I need to pay court myself, would at least solve the jolly old cash flow crisis if the lion does cut me off.”
Barty looked at his old friend with a shocked expression. “You are being so mercenary about the woman I love Bongo.”
“But you’ve never even talked to her Barty.”
“It doesn’t matter, I’m worshipping her from afar…”
“Or tonight from a bar…I say that’s rather clever.” Lord David chuckled, “from a bar instead of from afar.”
Barty closed his eyes, immune to the charms of the other beautiful women in Romulo’s tonight, and… “Oh I get it now, that is rather good, a bar…afar.”
Annabel glanced over at the two men gazing in her direction and smiled. They looked like good men to know, in one form or another…
“And she spent half the night dancing with that blighter Hughson Jayes.” Barty complained as he sat on the sofa, drinking his 11 o’clock cup of tea just after midday.
Jayes put the tea pot down and stood at attention, seeking to support his young employer. “A most unfortunate choice of dance partner sir. His reputation amongst the other gentlemen’s personal gentlemen is not of the highest standing.”
“I know, hasn’t she heard why that swine was sent down from Oxford?” Barty thought back to the unfortunate incident involving the bursar’s wife, the washing line and the diamond and silver tiara, shivering when he remembered how close he had come to being involved in that.
“I would consider it unlikely sir,” Jayes said quietly, “with the young lady being an American and only arrived in our country comparatively recently.”
“That probably explains it Jayes.” Barty sighed. “So any decent tips from the landlord of the Star for this afternoon.”
“I am led to believe that Emerald Star in the 3.15 at Kempton Park is what is sometimes vulgarly called a cert sir.”
“Hmmm 6 to 1 eh Jayes, might be worth a small investment what?”
“I have already taken the liberty of telephoning your turf accountant sir and placing a wager of twenty pounds.”
“Good show Jayes, what would I jolly do without you.”
“Heaven knows sir,” Jayes said quietly. “I will lay out the heather tweed for you to wear today sir.”
“Very good Jayes – oh, and I promised old Bongo I would dine with him tonight and then go on to the Tontom Club. You may have the evening off.”
“Very good sir – I have some small personal matters to attend to, but I shall be in situ in time for your return.”
“Very good Jayes – now for the bath, the suit and the cane. A walk in the park beckons.”
As Jayes left the flat, and stepped out of the building lobby, he breathed in the crisp evening air and smiled. He had an appointment at The Agency, and was looking forward to a most productive evening.
As he passed the Star, however, he noticed the landlord being escorted from the building by two of London’s finest. Jack was a fine, upstanding gentleman in all ways, but he did have a little side line in procurement, and it was obvious to Jayes that sideline had come to a sudden end. Making a mental note to inform the correct groups, he made his way down the street, whistling the latest Novello tune to himself as he walked along.
He stopped outside a plain looking building and knocked on the door three times, removing his head and nodding to the doorman as he was admitted.
“Good evening, Mister Jayes,” he said as he took the coat, “the committee are awaiting you in the main room.”
Barty’s aunties might not approve of the syncopated rhythms, the wailing saxophones, and the mesmeric notes from the horns, but to Barty himself the music at the Tontom Club had the same effect on his soul as a chorus of angels might. It was so modern, so perfect after all the bad times, the oldies might not approve but Barty and his generation felt that they were allowed this chance to let their hair down, relax, and to try somehow to forget. From the polished wooden dance floor, to the chrome and glass tables and chairs, and the Rennie McIntosh décor, it was the very definition of chic.
“This way, sir.”
“She’s a rather attractive little thing, “ Barty smiled as a brunette hostess showed him to a table. He might be in love with the divine Miss Richmond, but even goddesses forgave admiration of their handmaidens. This one wore a black dress with a white trim, and had a nice smile, and he thought her rather attractive in a provincial way
“Did you stop in at Lords this afternoon Barty?” Rhino Sopworth asked from the next table.
“I did old boy.”
“How was the score?”
“Haven’t got the foggiest old thing.”
“You went to Lords and never watched the cricket?”
“Rhino old chap who in their right minds goes to Lords to watch cricket, one goes to stroll around and meet old friends.”
“I’d still like to know if Eton won.”
“Rhino old chap I sometimes wonder about you, fancy actually being keen on the result.” Barty shook his head.
“There you are,” Bongo said as he sat down, “I got lost on my way from the gents.”
“Sit down and watch,” Barty said as Annabel came in, a vision of perfection in a white lace slip dress over a white silk v-necked garment, cut to show a flash of chest and a little knee. Her feet were in perfectly made white heels, and her gloves were of kid leather. She wore a shimmering grey chiffon wrap, as well as a diamond tiara in her hair and matching bracelets.
As she laughed, the pearls around her neck seemed to move and shimmer. Truly, in Barty’s eyes, she was the one – and there was only one blot on the horizon.
That blot being Hughson, who sneered as he accompanied her to the table on the far side of the dance floor.
Pouring the champagne, he passed the bottle to Bongo, who said “Cheers” and drank it straight down.
“Another bottle of shampoo.” Barty signaled to the dark haired hostess.
“Here you are sir,” the woman brought it over in an ice bucket from the bar. She looked at the other man, and said “Do I need to call a taxi for your friend sir.”
“No he’s fine.” As Barty said that, Bongo beamed and fell head first onto the table.
“You know best sir,” she looked doubtful as she walked away. “And here at the Tontom Club the customer is always right.”
“What does she see in him Bongo?” Barty lifted his friend’s head from where it was reposing on the top of a table.
Lord David grunted as his head dropped again.
“What Ho Barty?”
“What Ho Slasher.” Barty smiled as George Hendrick sat at his table. The Honorable George Arnold Hendrick was the third son of Baron Ponsonby, third Baron of Holborn, and made his crust of bread designing book jackets.
“Word is you made a nice coup today?” Slasher looked slightly worse for wear himself.
“Jayes information sources as perfect as ever.”
Mr. Hendrick glanced round, “you know a real chum would spread the jolly word if he got a hot tip from such an unimpeachable source.”
“Many apologies old boy…” Barty thought hard trying to remember something one of his aunts had once told him. “Aren’t you that stink…I mean aren’t you a cousin of Hughson over there?”
“It just happens I am, another bounder who doesn’t share his good fortune, damn blighter I’ve heard has an absolute fortune in emeralds stashed in his safe, all brought in illegally from South America, all nicely hidden away from the taxman.” Slasher Hendrick grumbled.
“Would you happen to know that adorable thing he’s dancing with?”
“You mean Miss Richmond, just happens I do…”
“I couldn’t wangle an introduction could I Slasher old chum.”
“To the heiress Barty,” he said as he sat back. “Oh no - don’t tell me you are smitten as well?”
“Rather, Slasher…So what chance on that introduction?”
“What’s in it for me Barty?”
“Jayes next hot tip…”
“How about the next three?”
“It’s a deal Barty.” Slasher stood up slightly unsteadily and motioned for Barty to follow him.
As they staggered across the floor, Barty adjusted his tie and tried to smile in a nice natural manner.
“Hello Hendrick.” Hughson scowled as his cousin approached.
“Hughson,” Slasher nodded. “Miss Richmond may I have the pleasure of presenting Barty Rhymaes, Barty can I introduce Miss Richmond.”
“Charmed Miss Richmond.” Barty bowed slightly.
“The same.” Miss Richmond smiled – a real warm smile that warmed him.
“Barty fagged for me at Eton donchaknow.” Slasher murmured as he slipped to the floor.
“Oh dear I think Mr. Hendrick is what you Brits call a bit squishy.” Miss Hendrick flashed her smile.
“You must forgive him, he has a hard time recently.”
“He would not know a hard time if it walked up, said hi and kicked him up the arse.”
Both Barty and Annabel looked at Hughson, before Barty said “I understand you are visiting our fair land.”
“Oh yes – learning, having fun, visiting all the right places with Jane…”
“Jane Huntingdown, my travelling companion. Papa insisted I came with one, and we were roomies at Smith. She’s not the outgoing type – prefers museums, and stays in reading while I get out and party!”
“Sounds delightful,” Barty said with a smile, mentally filing this young lady under the category of ‘determined to improve Rhymaes’.”
“Oh she is,” Annabel said with a smile. “Tell me, Barty, are you free tomorrow?”
“Rather – why do you ask?”
“I’m going out to Brooklands with Jane to visit Peggy. Why don’t you come with us?”
“And may I ask,” Barty said in a light carefree way, “who is Peggy?”
“Oh just a little something I like to drive round.”
“Well, that sounds fun – and in return, perhaps you could come to my place for a spot of supper tomorrow night?”
Annabel smiled, but before she could answer Hughson said “But you promised to accompany me to the soiree tomorrow!”
“Oh we can do both – if you don’t mind hosting for Hughson as well, Barty.”
“Of course not – I’ll invite my friend Bongo. We’ll make a jolly party, what?”
“Good – I’ll pick you up at two tomorrow at your apartment. Where is it?”
“Lavender Gardens, Mayfair. Ask for me at the door.”
“Until then,” she said with a smile as Hughson stood up. “We need to go, Miss Richmond.”
“Oh no – I want to dance with this charming young man before we go,” Annabel said with a laugh as she dragged Barty onto the dance floor, Hughson standing and fuming.
“Would you care for another drink sir?”
Hughson turned and glared at the hostess. “Listen, you little strumpet,” he growled, “if I wanted another drink, I would have ordered either you or one of your equally imbecilic co-workers over and asked for one.”
“Sir,” she said quietly, “there is no need for you to be so aggressive.”
“That was not aggressive,” he said as he suddenly pushed her against the wall, his hands on her hips, “this is aggressive. Is that what you want you little…”
Barty and Annabel turned and looked at David, who was standing in front of Hughson, his fists clenched.
“You owe this young lady an apology, sir.”
“What are you going to do about it, Bongo?”
“Oh dear,” Annabel said as she crossed the floor and took Hughson’s arm, “apologise, Alasdair darling.”
He looked at David, then the hostess, before grabbing his coat and walking out.
“Please, accept my apologies at least,” Annabel said as she collected her bag. “Until tomorrow, Barty.”
“She is adorable Jayes, simply adorable, a smile like the morning sun, a voice as melodious as bird song, a laugh that is like a chorus of angels.” Barty looked rapturous as he had his mid-morning cup of tea at one in the afternoon. He was already dressed, in a dark blue blazer, white shirt with cravat neatly tied (by Jayes) and cream trousers.
“She does indeed seem a remarkable young woman sir.” Jayes smiled.
“So any tips for today Jayes?”
“I must unfortunately report that Jack the landlord at the Star, was otherwise engaged last night sir. I very much fear we may need to seek appropriate information from other sources for the foreseeable future.”
“That’s a damn shame Jayes, a damn shame. I could have used a couple of your jolly old inside tips as payment for Slasher.”
“Now, Jayes, I am hosting a small dinner party tonight – myself, Miss Richmond, Lord David and Hughson.”
“Indeed Sir? May I enquire what led you to this arrangement?” Although he showed deference, Jayes was worried about what might be about to happen.
“To show Annabel why I am the best choice, of course,” Barty said as he heard a horn outside, and looked out of the window. “They have been asked to be here at seven for cocktails, and we dine at eight. Please prepare a suitable menu for four Jayes.”
“May I suggest a cold consommé, chicken in white wine and mushroom sauce with dauphonoise potatoes and greens, and a light soufflé for the food sir.”
“Sounds topping Jayes – go to it,” Barty said as he left, Jayes shaking his head before he went to collect his coat. The provision of additional supplies was essential.
Miss Richmond might be admired for her beauty, but the beauty she truly admired was her very own sky blue Bugatti Type 35B that she kept garaged and raced at Brooklands. The thrills she got from opening up the throttle round the Byfleet Banking was almost indescribable. The moisture in a certain part of her body hugging driving suit proof of the excitement racing created within her only added to the pleasure.
Barty and Hughson watched from the pit lane, either side of a tall blonde haired girl Annabel had introduced as Jane Huntingdown. She wore a grey cardigan and skirt with a white blouse, sensible brown brogues and glasses, but there was something in her eye that caught Barty’s as well.
Annabel pulled to a stop at her pit, got out of the car, removed her helmet and shook her hair.
"Well Boys what did you think?" she asked Barty and Hughson.
"Simply amazing Miss Richmond." Barty smiled as he looked at the car. “A real beauty.”
"Damn lot of nonsense if you ask me..."
"But Mr. Hughson....the excitement." she trilled the words.
"I'd rather get excited watching my shares rise on the market."
“I prefer F Scott Fitzgerald,” Jane said without looking up.
“Come on Hughson, where’s your spirit of adventure?”
“Party pooper – Come on, I’ll drive you both back to the big bad city.”
She turned to see a red haired woman standing behind her, wearing a leather jacket, cap and large goggles.
“Oh my – Betsy? Betsy Morse? What brings you over here?”
“En Vacance, my dear. Want to race a few laps?”
“Why not – you all right for a little while longer?”
“Of course, old fruit,” Barty said as he waved her back to her car. The fact she was so skilled only added to her attraction in his eyes.
The two women wore form fitting white mechanics overalls that didn't defeminise them at all, showing their attractive curves as they put their hair up under their helmets before going out again to test themselves against the circuit’s curves.
“There is something fundamentally wrong with a woman who prefers a fast car to a man,” Hughson grumbled as she drove off.
“Oh I don’t know, Hughson – it tells me she enjoys risk and the fast things in life.”
“Or that she finds the car more reliable than a man,” Jane whispered under her breath.
Barty heard the comment and smiled, but Hughson just seemed to redden in anger as she passed by. “You don’t think she’s one of them, do you Rhymaes?”
“One of what, Hughson old chap?”
“Women who hate men.”
“What, a latter day suffragette.”
He turned and stared at Barty, before saying “Are you really that imbecilic?”
“Hughson, old pip, did I say something to upset you?”
Hughson just growled again and walked over to where Annabel had stopped with Betsy Morse, Barty looking at Jane before they walked over as well. As they got closer, they heard Hodgson say “I warn you, Miss Richmond, you vex me too much.”
“Oh good – it’s good for a man to be vexed,” Annabel said with a smile, making Hughson even angrier.
“I think it is time I played the prix chevalier,” Barty said as his put a hand on the other man’s shoulder, and said “Hughson, old boy, walk with me a minute.”
As he led the other man away, Jane whispered “well?”
“Oh yes – we’re doing this.”
“Well it would never do in my family Mr. Jayes,” Mrs. Bellows the daily said as she shook her head, “A young lady like her coming alone to visit a young gentleman’s flat.”
“She’s an American Mrs. Bellows, I am led to believe they have different standards of propriety in that country.” Jayes sat sipping his tea in the pantry.
“Well it still aint right Mr. Jayes, it just aint right.”
“Indeed. I shall, however, do my duty whatever my personal views on the matter.”
“So who else is coming Mr. Jayes?”
“I’m informed that Lord David and Mr. Hughson will also be in attendance.”
“Three gentleman and one lady, it just aint proper.” Mrs. Bellows shook her head again.
“Not at all.”
“So Mr. Jayes did you read that this burglar they call The Ghost robbed Lord Shearwater’s house?”
“I did indeed Mrs. Bellows, this rogue is most daring.”
“Fancy creeping into his lordship’s bedroom like that and taking ‘is snuff box collection.”
“Fancy that indeed Mrs. Bellows.”
Jayes had considered raising the prospect of a visit to Lord Shearwater, but alas, the opportunity had passed. The more he heard of this Ghost, the more he desired to meet him.
“Good evening Miss Richmond, Mister Hughson” Jayes said as he held the door open, allowing the two new arrivals to come in. Jayes was dressed in what Barty unkindly referred to as “full battle dress” – the impeccable shirt, black dress jacket and trousers, waistcoat, bow tie and white gloves.
“Well now, and who are you,” Annabel said as she looked at him.
“My name is Jayes, Miss Richmond, and I serve as Mister Rhymaes’ personal gentleman. May I take your coat?”
Annabel was wearing a long white fur coat with a large collar, which she allowed Jayes to remove, revealing an ivory flapper style dress with ornate patterning, and a beaded layered overskirt. She also wore ivory opera gloves, and a large set of real pearls around her neck.
Taking Mister Hughson’s coat and hanging both up, Jayes bowed and said “if you will come this way, please.“
“ah there you are,” Barty said as they came in, dressed as was Hughson and Lord David in evening clothes. “Jayes, cocktails for my guests.”
“Certainly sir,” Jayes said as he moved to the drinks cabinet.
“Bongo old thing, meet Miss Richmond.”
“Miss Richmond…charmed.” Lord David bowed.
“Your Lordship.” Miss Richmond curtsied.
“Just call me Bongo, Miss Richmond.”
“Evening Hughson.” Barty tried to sound welcoming.
“Fitzstuart, Rhymaes.” Hughson barely acknowledged the greeting as he looked round. “Very nice house Rhymaes – your uncle must have left you a small fortune.”
“I get by,” Barty said in an effort to be sociable.
“Well aint it just thrilling you three boys inviting me to supper?” Miss Richmond laughed.
“It’s our pleasure Miss Richmond.”
“Well ah guess if you are wanting me to call you Bongo Lord David, all you gentleman probably ought to call me Annabel.”
“Your drink, Miss Richmond,” Jayes said as he presented it on a silver tray.
“You can call me Annabel too, Jayes.”
“Forgive me, Miss Richmond, but it would not be proper. If you will excuse me?” He bowed and made his way to the side of the room.
“Real polite, isn’t he?”
“Oh Jayes can be a bit of a stuffed shirt at times, but his heart is in the right place, and he is invaluable to me.”
“He speaks true, Annabel,” Bongo said as he sipped his drink, “Many have tried to lure Jayes away, but he remains true to Barty here.”
“A loyal manservant – you’re a diamond in the rough, are you Jayes?”
“I prefer to think of myself as a light in the darkness, Miss Richmond,” Jayes said as he slipped noiselessly out.
“So where is your companion tonight Annabel?”
“Jane? The poor dear had a headache, so I left her at my apartment, curled up with the latest edition of The Spectator.”
“Well, I hope the poor little lamb recovers soon,” Barty said as Jayes reappeared.
“Jayes you can serve please.” Barty nodded.
“Very well sir.” Jayes repaired to the kitchen.
“In addition to his other talents Jayes is a first rate cook Annabel.” Barty was reveling in the American informality of his principal guest.
“Then I look forward to sampling the wares,” Annabel said as Barty escorted the young heiress to the table. As they say, Jayes brought through the tureen and served the soup, Barty and David looking at Hughson as he slurped his serving. Jayes merely raised an eyebrow and nodded as he removed the tureen, and took it back to the kitchen.
The rest of the meal passed in a fairly pleasant, if strained manner, as Jayes brought the food through and cleared the plates. Once the dessert plates had been cleared, Barty stood up and said “Perhaps we can take brandy and coffee in the front room. Will you bring the coffee and decanter through please Jayes?”
“With your permission, sir, I will bring the decanter and glasses first, and then bring the coffee through.”
“I tell you what Jayes,” Annabel said, “I’ll take the brandy through for you.”
Jayes stared at Annabel for a moment, before he said “the offer is much appreciated Miss Richmond, but it is hardly…”
“Jayes, you cooked a fantastic meal tonight,” Annabel said, “and I want to show my appreciation by helping. You would hardly deny a lady her request, would you?”
“Well, when you put it that way Miss Richmond, I cannot refuse. Allow me to show you to the drinks cabinet, and I will fetch a tray and glasses.”
As they went in one direction, Barty led the other two gentlemen to the front room.
“She is an angel in form, wouldn’t you agree Bongo?”
“She has something, I agree,” Bongo said.
“Both of you can back off,” Hughson said as she sat down. “I am marrying Annabel Richmond – she doesn’t know it yet is all.”
“I must say, she seemed unimpressed with you today, Hughson,” Barty said quietly,
“And as for last night…”
“I was showing her who was boss,” Hughson said as Annabel appeared with the brandy decanter, Jayes laying the tray with glasses on the low table, and then bowing as he left the room.
“I’ll pour,” Barty said as he poured four glasses.
“No, five – let your man have a drink as well.”
“He will refuse, but – all right,” Barty said as he poured a fifth glass, while Jayes appeared with the coffee.
“Shall I pour, sir,” he said as he looked at Barty.
“In a moment, Jayes – join us for a brandy first.”
“I am not sure it is my place to do Miss Richmond…”
“Oh come on, my man – relax a little.”
“It’s all right Jayes – I’ll allow it this once,” Barty said.
“Very well Sir,” Jayes said as he accepted a glass.
“A toast – to fun,” Annabel said as she raised her glass, and all of them put the glass to their lips.
“If you will excuse me, Sir, I will pour the coffee now,” Jayes said, but as he went back to the table he stopped for a moment and held his head.
“Problem, Jayes,” Barty said as he looked over.
“I must apologise sir, but I suddenly feel a little unwell. Would it be possible for me to leave the coffee for you, and retire for the evening?”
“Of course, my man,” Barty said as he sipped his brandy, “I’m sure we can manage the coffee and drinks.”
“Forgive me, gentlemen, Miss Richmond,” Jayes said as he bowed to them, Annabel saying “I hope you feel better in the morning” as she stood by the large potted plant.
As he left the room, Barty said “Another brandy, gentlemen…”
The Hughson house in Belgravia had a number of lights on, indicating the staff were about their duties, but the street outside was quiet. Nobody paid much attention to the young man in the cloth cap, the collar of his jacket turned up, as he walked past the house, and then back in the opposite direction.
Slipping down the stairs at the front, he produced a thin bayonet from within his jacket, and worked on the scullery window, managing to move the lock and slide it up as he made his way inside.
As he closed the window, he listened for any noise, and then stepped to the side as the door opened and a maid came in. She barely had time to close the door before he grabbed her, putting his wool gloved hand over her mouth as he said in a high pitched voice “Not a word – do you have any twine in here?”
Outside, a taller man was walking down the street. The collar was turned up against the cold, and he stopped to look up at the open window on the second floor.
“If I was to try to obtain entrance in that way, Miss, I would make use of the trestle. I believe it will support your weight.”
The man wheeled round to see Jayes standing behind her, no longer wearing his formal outfit, but instead a black high necked jersey and dark trousers, with a black cap on his head.
“Good evening, Miss Richmond – forgive the manner of announcing my presence, but I felt it prudent to let you know I was here.” He looked at the house, and said, “Mister Rhymaes and I have often considered paying Mr. Hughson a visit, but the opportunity never presented itself.”
“You and… Don’t tell me you’re both…”
“Indeed Miss Richmond – and it is always a pleasure to meet a fellow practitioner. I have never held with those who believe our profession is exclusively a male domain – indeed, many of the finest practitioners I know are female.”
“So how did you work it out Jayes?” Annabel asked.
“It was when I saw you putting what I believe you Americans call a Mickey Finn into the brandy Miss, and then insisting that I should join you all in drinking it. An unusual ploy, but an effective one.”
“And I take it that you also saw me pour mine into the Aspidistra pot?”
“You then pretended to head to bed early, while they all passed out as though they were drunk.”
“While your taxi-cab arrived Miss and I was able to procure a similar vehicle in which to follow you.”
“Seeing me change into this.” Annabel gestured to the black man’s suit, the flat cap with her hair tucked underneath, and the black scarf hanging round her neck.
“Just so, Miss. A very effective disguise – but I do not believe you are this Ghost that has been active recently,”
In the scullery, the maid struggled as the masked man tied her bound ankles to the chair leg with the twine. Her arms had been pulled round the chair back, her wrists tied together and then to the chair back, while her arms were tied to the side of the back support. A large towel was tied in her mouth.
“Just sit still, you’ll be fine,” the man said as he opened the scullery door and crept up the stairs.
He stood to one side as a footman went past, and then let himself into the study.
Annabel looked at Jayes, and then said “So, are you going to turn me into the Bobbies?”
“No Miss,” he said quietly, “For one thing it would be most unprofessional. For another, given the rather unlikeable character of Mr. Hughson, I believe it will provide a salutary lesson to him. Instead, may I volunteer to keep cavy for you out here?”
“You’d do that for me Jayes?
Jayes smiled as he said “It would be my honour and my pleasure Miss.”
“I’m going to climb up and get in that open window Jayes.”
“May I enquire as to if you know where the safe is Miss?”
“I do Jayes, it’s in the next room, I saw him open it in my powder compact, so all I need do is reverse the actions and as you say over here ‘Bobs my uncle’.”
“If I may be so bold Miss, can I remind you that the servants and a guard will probably be about their business?”
“It’s why I have this Jayes.” Annabel pulled a revolver from her pocket and held it in her gloved hand.
“A wise precaution Miss. I wish you good fortune.”
Annabel smiled as she started to climb the trellis, Jayes retreating to the shadows of the passageway.
The young man smiled as he placed the last of the jeweled boxes into his sack, and then opened the door, looking from side to side before he slipped out and started to climb the staircase.
Entering the master bedroom, she started to search through the furniture, smiling even more as she retrieved a collection of gold coins and placed them in her sack.
“Oi – who do you think you are?”
She turned suddenly to see a tall man standing in the door, looking at her as he turned the light on and came in, closing the door behind him. He slowly backed up, searching for something in his pocket as the servant walked towards him.
“You must be this ghost I heard about,” he sneered, “the boss will be glad I ca…”
She watched as he fell to the floor, and a second figure appeared behind him, wearing a dark suit, cap and a scarf masking his face, and putting his revolver back in his pocket. The two figures looked at each other, before the new arrival said, in an American female voice “The Ghost I presume?”
“Yeah – who are you?”
“Not important – he keeps his cash in the bottom drawer, but can you come and give me a hand first. I want to empty his safe.”
“Yeah – go on,” the other man said as Annabel realized this was not a man. “What are you going to do anyway?”
“Empty his safe,” Annabel said as she opened the door and looked round. “Come on – it’ll only take a minute.”
“What about him?”
“He’ll be out for a while – come on.”
The two thieves slipped into the next room, closing the door as Annabel turned on the desk light. “Now then,” she said as she looked at the second intruder, “want to help me open the safe?”
“You know the combination?”
Annabel smiled as she took a compact from her pocket, and stood with her back to the safe. “All right then, to your left 32.”
She recalled the sequence and called out to the Ghost, who quickly turned the dial and then pulled the door handle down, smiling as there was a click and the door swung open.
“Neat trick – pity there’s no way I can ever make use of that in my current position.”
“Nothing to it when you know how,” Annabel said as she put the compact away and knelt next to her new partner, loading trays of gems into her bag. She then picked up a velvet bag, and opened it, taking out a green emerald and looking at it.
“Cor – what are they worth?”
“Priceless,” Annabel said as she returned the jewel, and put the bag in her own. “Anything else?”
“More bank notes – foreign ones this time,” the Ghost said as she extracted them and placed them in her bag. “Come on – we need to get out of here.”
“I hope you have a head for heights,” Annabel said, “you’ll need it.”
For once even Jayes was lost for a word as the two small black clad figures came down the trellis.
“Here Jayes catch.” Annabel hissed as she dropped the sack containing the emeralds.
“And this.” the other figure also dropped a bag.
“As you wish, Miss,” Jayes said as he caught the second bag.
“Well this is certainly a conundrum most pleasing.” Jayes shook his head as both figures descended into the passageway.
“Jayes meet The Ghost, Ghost meet Mr. Jayes the burglars best friend.” Annabel pulled her mask off and smiled.
“It’s a bloody pleasure Mr. Jayes,” the brunette removed her cap to loosen her hair and pulled the scarf off.
“The pleasure is mine – but may I suggest ladies that we make a hasty exit?” Jayes looked up as screams came from the house.
“As always Jayes your timing is impeccable.” Annabel laughed as they proceeded away from the scene of the crime.
As they walked down the street, they heard a police whistle behind them, and the sound of feet running in the opposite direction.
“Let’s go to my place – we can have some tea and talk things over there,” Annabel said. “It’s only a short walk away.”
Fifteen minutes later, Jayes was pouring tea into three cups as the brunette sat at the kitchen table of Annabel Richmond’s flat.
“So can I enquire what you real name is Miss?” Jayes asked as he passed a cup over.
“My name is Annie Xavier…Mrs. Annie Xavier.” The brunette said as she sipped the cup of tea.
“Does your husband…?”
“I’m a widow Mr. Jayes, my ‘usband was shot two days before the end of the war.”
“Oh that was tragic.” Annabel came out from changing into a simple dress.
“I work as a hostess at the Tontom club, I listen what the customers say…”
“And you take advantage of the information?” Jayes smiled.
“I do, I tell my two boys I’m going to be in late so they don’t worry…”
“And you rob your targets.” Annabel laughed. “I have to say I think you are inspiring Mrs. X.”
“Forgive me, but was your husband John Xavier?”
“Yeah that’s right – did you know him?”
“I did, one of the finest safecrackers in the city. I was one of his pupils at one time – but I took a slightly different career path.”
“Mister Jayes and his employer, Mister Rhymaes, are fellow criminals,” Annabel said.
“Really? You don’t strike me as the common thief, Mister Jayes.”
“With all respect, ladies, I am not – but I and Mister Rhymaes choose our targets carefully and hopefully with minimum discomfort. Of course, it does not always turn out that way, but we can try.”
The door to the kitchen opened and Jane Huntingdown came in, wearing a brown woolen coat.
“Did you get them going the wrong way Jane?”
“I did…” the tall bespectacled blonde replied, “Last I heard was the Bobbies heading towards Pall Mall.” She looked at the two strangers, and said “Did I miss something?”
“Jane can I introduce Mr. Jayes the wonderful gentleman who kept watch from the passageway under the trellis for me, I suppose for us.” Annabel smiled at Mrs. X. “Jane was playing lookout in the square Jayes, it was her job if trouble started to use her police whistle and draw people off in the opposite direction.”
“If I might take the liberty of saying so Miss, a most clever arrangement. It provided time for an effective retreat.”
“Oh I like this one,” Jane said, “May I have some of that tea?”
“Of course Miss,” Jayes said as he poured another cup, and handed it over.
“Well we’ve done it before Jayes, Jane has a way of just disappearing into the background, and people just don’t see her.”
“The advantages of being a plain looking girl I guess.”
“Might I venture that it’s more a case of acting skill then genuine plainness Miss Jane,” Jayes paused, “Might I additionally venture a compliment that behind your disguise is an extremely beautiful young woman.”
Jane blushed before she said “Well keep it to yourself please Jayes, our little scheme has worked very well to date.”
“Indeed, I seem to recall several burglaries in the vicinity of Fifth Avenue when Mister Rhymaes and I had an apartment in the city. Having met you both tonight, I suspect you know very well what happened.”
“Who us Jayes?” both American girls feigned ignorance.
“But why miss, you are after all a considerable heiress…”
“I may be but Jane isn’t, I love the excitement but she needs the cash so she can continue with her research and study.”
“Ah well that would explain a lot of things Miss Richmond, Miss Huntingdown. I fear one must do what one must to survive in this world.”
“So you approve?”
“It would by hypocritical of me to try to remonstrate with you given my own profession, ladies,” Jayes said with a smile. Glancing at the clock, he said “I fear I must leave you now however, to settle matters between yourselves. May I see it has been a pleasure and an education?”
“What will you tell them, Jayes?”
“I will inform Mister Rhymaes that I could not sleep, but found you alone with the other three incapable of providing company. I therefore escorted you back to your apartment, where Miss Huntingdown was gracious enough to offer me some refreshment before I returned.”
“Sounds like a plan – and me,” Annie said.
“I invite you to visit The Agency,” Jayes said as he handed her a card, “I think they will be of help to you. Ladies.”
And with that, he stood and collected his hat, nodding to them as he walked out.
“I honestly thought they were all gone,” Annie said.
“A real gentleman – and he is one.”
“Oh my head,” Barty moaned as he slowly woke up, and saw both Bongo and Hughson sprawled across his chairs. The morning sun was shining into the room, but as he tried to focus he could see that everything had been cleared up.
“Good morning Sir,” Jayes said as he shimmered in, “I believe this may be of use to you. The raw egg provides protein, and the Worcester sauce bite.”
Barty nodded and downed the proffered drink, waiting for the customary explosion to pass before he said “thank you Jayes – Miss Richmond?”
“I made sure she was safely returned to her accommodation, sir – it seemed I was only passing unwell. When I returned and saw the three of you asleep, I felt it prudent to leave you alone.”
“Oh lord,” Bongo said as he woke up, “what was in that brandy?”
“Drink this sir,” Jayes said as he offered a second drink to Lord David, standing back as he swallowed the contents, seemed to turn red for a second, and then stood up.
“I should say, your lordship, that your father has called here to see if you were present. I said you had stayed the night, and would meet him at Claridges at ten.”
“It’s nine now – may I use your bathroom Barty?”
“Be my guest – and Hughson?”
“Let him sleep sir – I will prepare some breakfast.”
“I must say Jayes,” Barty said as he looked round, “I owe Annabel an apology for my beastly behavior.”
“It would not be my place to say so sir,” Jayes said as he watched Lord David heading to the bathroom, “but an apology may be the gentlemanly thing to do.”
“More than he will I suspect,” Barty said as Hughson let out a loud snort. “How he managed to con the local association…”
“I cannot venture an opinion on the matter sir. If you will excuse me, I will prepare breakfast.”
When Hughson finally started to come round, the smell of bacon and eggs was in the air, and Barty was having a mid-morning cigarette and cup of tea.
“Wh… What time is it,” he said as he looked round.
“Just after ten Hughson old fruit. I’m afraid we all fell asleep last night. Bongo has gone to see his father, and Jayes can prepare you some breakfast if…”
The door bell rang and Jayes returned, bearing a telegram on a platter and accompanied by a policeman.
“A telegram for you, sir, and the constable is here to see Mister Hughson.”
“Oh,” Barty said as he opened the missive. “Miss Richmond will call later this morning, Jayes.”
“Very good sir – Mister Hughson,” Jayes said as he indicted the man rubbing his head on the couch.
“My apologies for disturbing you here, sir,” the policeman said, “But your butler informed me you were dining here tonight, and you had not returned home.”
“I think I drank a little too much,” Hughson said as he rubbed his head, “what can I do for you officer?”
“I regret to inform you that your home was robbed tonight, by two slim gentlemen. I have to inform you that one of them was identified as the Ghost.”
“The…” Hughson jumped up and then groaned. “What was taken?”
“According to your man, your collection of boxes and coins, and your safe was emptied. Your maid was secured and bound by one of the intruders, and another knocked out your…”
Barty and Jayes were watching as Hughson slowly took in this revelation, and then reddened as he turned to look at Barty. “Rhymaes, you bastard – you did this to me. You got me so drunk I fell asleep, and then got someone to rob me.”
“My apologies, Mr. Hughson,” Jayes said, “but you may recall I left the room early last night. I returned a short while later to find all three of you asleep in the chairs, and incapable of any actual movement. I took it upon myself to escort Miss Richmond home, as I am sure she will confirm.”
“I don’t believe you,” Hughson fumed. “I had a fortune in gems stored at home – diamonds, rubies…” He suddenly looked at the constable and said, “Was the safe emptied?”
“I believe so, sir, yes.”
“NO! I had those emeralds brought in under cover, and now some little upstart has stolen them – and you know who it is.”
“Hughson, I have no idea what you are talking about,” Barty said, backing away as Hughson walked towards him.
“I never revealed anything about those emeralds, you must have…”
“Forgive me Mister Hughson,” the constable said as he took out his notebook, “what is it you meant about emeralds brought in without notification? That is a serious offence sir.”
Hughson looked at the constable, and then at Barty, before an animal growl escaped from his mouth and he sprang at the young man, only to fall to the ground as he tripped over Jayes’ outstretched leg.
“My apologies sir,” Jayes said as he pulled Hughson’s arm up his back, “but you must be aware you were about to make a very grievous error.”
“My thanks, sir,” the policeman said as he produced some cuffs, and Jayes stood. “Excuse me sir, I heard the bell a moment ago,” he said as he left, returning as he said “Miss Richmond sir.”
“Barty, I called to see if…” Annabel stood still, wearing her large fur coat, and stared at Hughson as the police constable forced him to his feet.
“I know you did this, Rhymaes,” Hughson snarled, “just so you could get your hands on Miss Richmond here.”
“I swear, Hughson old thing, I had no idea what you are talking about. I am as much in the dark as you are.”
“Be that as it may sir,” the constable said as he took Hughson by the arm, “you tried to assault this unarmed gentlemen, and the inspector may wish to discuss the emeralds you mentioned.”
“I took the liberty of alerting the local station by means of the doorman, constable. I believe you will find a vehicle waiting outside.”
Hughson glared at Barty and Annabel, before he was led from the flat.
“Golly – I did pick my moment,” Annabel said as the telephone rang, Jayes answering while Barty said “I am awfully sorry about that, Miss Richmond.”
“That was Lord David sir – he will be calling shortly to see you and Miss Richmond.”
“Well, I had better tidy myself up,” Barty said quietly, “will you entertain Miss Richmond for the moment Jayes?”
“Of course sir – may I offer you some tea or would you prefer coffee?”
“Coffee if you have it Jayes,” Miss Richmond said as she sat down, Jayes heading to the kitchen and Barty to his bedroom.
Returning with the coffee, Jayes poured the liquid into the cup and handed it to Annabel.
“So did you ladies agree on a fair division of the spoils after I left Miss?”
“We did Jayes…we also agreed that two ghosts working in London was maybe one too many, so I’ve decided to sail for home on tonight’s sailing from Southampton. The other jewels I hawked – sorry, passed on today, but the emeralds come back with me. I have plans for them.”
“Let me suggest that might be a most sensible and prudent idea Miss.” Jayes nodded. “I know it will be a wrench for Mister Rhymaes, but I am sure he will overcome in time?”
“If I read your man correctly, it will take him no time at all,” Annabel said with a smile. “However, we have more than enough funds to meet Jane’s needs and Rocky has been missing me.”
“A dear friend, Mister Jayes,” Annabel said with a smile as Barty reappeared, wearing a herring bone tweed suit with a shirt and tie.
“Very natty,” Annabel said as Jayes went to the door, and showed in Bongo.
“Barty, Annabel,” Bongo said as Jayes stood to the side.
“We must both apologise for our deplorable behavior last night Annabel…I mean Miss Richmond.” Barty looked rather downcast.
“I had a meeting with my father today, and he convinced me that maybe I’m squishy a bit too often Miss Richmond. I apologise as well.” Bongo looked down at his feet.
“Well it’s a good thing I had a gentleman’s gentleman to escort me home and protect my reputation boys.” Annabel smiled at Jayes knowingly.
“Your limousine is here I believe Miss Richmond.” Jayes reminded the young American woman.
“Thank you Jayes,” Annabel said as she stood up. “Well, Southampton here I come.” She laughed.
“You are leaving London Miss Richmond?”
“I am Barty,” Annabel’s eyes sparkled, “My fiancé is expecting me back in the states.”
Barty stared at her, as he said “You are engaged to be married?”
“Didn’t I tell you boys? Now wasn’t that naughty of me.”
Barty’s face dropped.
“Oh don’t worry – you’ll make someone a wonderful husband one day, Barty – and you too Bongo. But not me – Rocky is a very wealthy man, and you will hate him. He played for Notre Dame.”
“If you will allow me, Miss Richmond,” Jayes said as he went to the door.
“Well wish me bon voyage boys.” Annabel swept out the door in her huge fur coat.
Bongo and Barty looked at each other, as Jayes closed the door.
“Well I never,” Bongo eventually said. “It seems we were all out of luck, Barty old thing.”
“Indeed – Jayes, Lord David and I shall head to the club. We may eat out – I will call if such is the case.”
“Of course sir,” Jayes said as he started to collect the cups.
“Well Jayes, I suppose we should count our blessings, I could be old Hughson.”
“Indeed sir - I happened to see the article in the paper this morning. Forgive me if I say it is an inevitable outcome of a disorganized mind.”
“I will forgive it, Jayes – because whatever you just said sounds right.” Barty sat drinking his morning tea at eleven o’clock. “Well the one good thing was that rotter getting robbed Jayes. I wonder who this Ghost is anyway?”
“Most fortuitous sir.” Jayes smiled. “As for the identity of the Ghost, the Agency were not forthcoming, but I shall watch their career with interest.”
“On which topic, Jayes, the heiress – Miss Morse – I understand she has a reasonable collection of jewels as well. What chance we may visit her before this Ghost.”
“I anticipated your thoughts Sir – I understand she is out tonight. Shall I lay out the suitable garments later?”
“Do so Jayes – and now, my buttonhole, my cane, and my hat – there is a park to be walked in.”