Jay at the Manor
“And just what are you looking at Mark?”
Mark looked up from his place at the kitchen table as Yvonne stood in the doorway, smiling as she watched him.
“Kids in bed?”
“Yup,” she said as she walked to the fridge and took out a bottle of white wine, and then two glasses from the shelf. “So, what are you looking at?”
Mark leaned back and stretched his arms up, accepting the glass his wife poured before he said “ever heard of Markson Manor?”
“Of course I have,” Yvonne said. “Viscount Markson can trace his family back to William the Conqueror’s forces. The Manor sits in acres of private grounds – in fact, I think only Desmond Holderness comes close in terms of wealth.”
“Know anything of the current family?”
“Married – one son, one daughter. Actually – hang on a minute...”
She stood up and went into the front room, returning with the paper and turning to the review page. “Yes, here he is – Alun Markson. He’s a promising film director, and the premiere of his latest film is Sunday.”
“I know,” Mark said with a smile, “but you’re wrong about the wealth. Markson Manor is indeed big – bigger and grander than Holderness Manor – and costs a lot more than you may think to maintain, so the esteemed Viscount Markson is – well, not poor, but not that well off.”
“So why the interest in him?”
“Because Geoffrey Markson is the chief financial officer for a large city corporation, as well as treasurer for the local community. So, while his income from tenting the manor house out for films and events covers his living expenses, the business accounts he has access to are what are of interest to me on this occasion.”
“Well, I can imagine that would be the case,” Yvonne said as she looked at the pictures. “But won’t they be in London for the premiere?”
“Only Lady Markson is attending, her husband has other commitments this weekend,” Mark said quietly, “so it will be him, his daughter and the housekeeper. So, with deep regret, Mrs McPhee is not needed for this one. Besides, it’s a two day job.”
“Big house – need a large group to make sure you have total control.”
Mark nodded, and then looked at her. “Something you wish to ask, Yvonne?”
“Come on Mark – Markson Manor? I read about it as a girl, I’ve seen it in films and television programs – I would love to have the chance to visit it, see all those rooms and that history for myself...”
“All right, all right,” Mark said as he shook his head, “an extra pair of hands would be useful. Can we get someone to look after the kids for the long weekend?”
“Oh, I can think of a certain nearby farm that may allow them to stay for a few days...”
“Well, you call them and see if that’s all right,” Mark said as he stood up, “I need to call our friends.”
Yvonne nodded and took her mobile phone out, saying “Linda?”
Walking into the hallway, Mark picked up the main phone and dialled as he went back into the kitchen.
“Brian, it’s Mark. Everything quiet over there?”
“Only because Sarah has taken the kids to the play centre,” Brian said with a smile, “what can I do for you Mark?”
“We’re going to be busy this weekend, but I thought I had better let you know first.”
“Fair enough – and where is the infamous Jay Edwards going to be visiting this weekend?”
“A place called Markson Manor, to conduct some business with Viscount Geoffrey Markson.”
Mark listened for a moment, as Brian quietly began to chuckle, and then said “Well, this is good timing, Mark. I need a favour if you can accommodate me.”
“Geoff Markson is a well known name to me – he worked alongside Desmond Holderness, David Craig, and others in the service of Her Majesty, if you catch my drift.”
“How many people do you really know, Brian?”
“No comment – anyway,” Brian continued, “Markson has a great many secrets, and many of them are in letters and directives that he received. There’s an issue I’m looking into where seeing those documents would be invaluable, but many of them were lost or destroyed – and the only person with a copy would be...”
“Viscount Geoffrey Markson.”
“Precisely. The UK government will deny their existence, and therefore Markson cannot be pressed into releasing what he has. And he will refuse to do so.”
“Like Desmond, Markson is a man of honour - he swore never to reveal his secrets while he was alive, and is known to be very loyal to his friends. So if while you were there, and if you had the time, if you could find those documents, take pictures of them, and send me them...”
“I can try – what do they look like?”
“No idea – only that he will have then very well hidden.”
“Well,” Mark said as he rubbed the back of his head, “no promises but we’ll see what we can do.”
“Thanks - and good hunting,” Brian said as the call ended.
“Linda says the kids can stay all weekend,” Yvonne said as she came back to the kitchen. “How was Brian?”
“Intriguing – we may need to do a little snooping while we are in Markson Manor.”
“Good evening, lads,” Mrs McPhee said as the associates Jay had called climbed into the back of the van, “I hope yere all ready for a fun weekend?”
“Please excuse Mrs McPhee’s enthusiasm, boys,” Jay said as he closed the doors to the van. “She is visiting a place she has often wanted to, but she will be a professional as always. We have a long drive ahead of us, and potentially a long weekend, so get some rest while you can.”
Jay and Mrs McPhee climbed out of the back of the van, closing the doors as the town clock struck midnight and they got behind the wheel. As Mark pulled his mask off, and attached the false beard to his chin, Yvonne fixed the red wig over her dark hair. Handing Jay a pair of glasses, she donned one herself before they set off, heading out of town.
“What time is it,” Yvonne said as she opened her eyes.
“Just before nine – we’re about an hour away,” Mark said as they saw a large SUV coming in the opposite direction. As it passed by, Mark caught a glimpse of the man behind the wheel.
“Did he look familiar to you?”
“I’m not sure,” Mark said as he continued down the country road, “but that’s not important right now.”
“So this is Markson Manor,” Yvonne said as they pulled up outside, “This is going to be interesting.”
“Suit up,” Mark said as they removed their disguises and donned the balaclavas, before opening the back of the van, the rest of the group getting out and carrying bags and guns.
“If you would do the honours, Mrs McPhee?”
The woman smiled as she knocked on the door, waiting as it was opened by a middle aged woman wearing a white blouse, a knee length grey skirt and black shoes.
“How may I he...”
“Good morning,” Jay said as they pushed the woman back in, “please, remain silent for a few moments.” As the door was closed, they could hear voices from a door on the far side of the entrance hall.
Walking over, Jay opened the doors, and walked in with the team – only to be shocked at the sight of the eight women in Victorian dress, who turned and looked at her.
One of them, an older teenager in a Victorian jacket and checked skirt, said in a quiet voice “oh my god – who are you?”
“Forgive my manners, dear lady,” Jay said as he stepped forward, “my name is Jay Edwards – but then, your friends here know that now, don’t you?”
“Suzie,” the other older girl said quietly as she walked forward and put her hand on the first girl’s shoulder, “is that?”
“Oh yes,” another girl, well known to Jay, said quietly, “this is Jay Edwards.”
As Mark looked round the room, he wondered what he had done to find himself in this situation. He now knew why he had recognised the car – it was owned by Lord Holderness, and he must have brought the girls here.
Two things ran quickly through his mind. The first was how grateful he was Yvonne had insisted on coming, given he could see Patty and Rachel there. But the outfits they were wearing – his mind snapped back to the weekend he had held some of them hostage, and they had dressed in 1950’s costumes the whole time, but this? It looked like Victorian costumes – but why? He noticed none of them were really afraid – apart from the one girl he did not recognise.
As for Yvonne, she was struggling not to break out into a great big smile. She had worn and used the sort of clothes they were wearing when in her younger days she had worked in a theatre. She wasn’t sure what was going on yet, but she knew she would be needed. She just wished she could join them in the outfits...
“We really do have to stop meeting like this,” Jay eventually said. “I will presume,” he said as he looked at Angela, “that you are this young lady’s older sister?”
Angela and Alicia Bowden exchanged glances before Suzie Holderness said “that’s right – this is my oldest cousin Angela.”
“Which makes you,” Jay said as he looked at Gerri, “Lady Geraldine Markson. A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Oh my god,” Gerri said quietly as she started shaking, and Angela said “Gerri, I know you’re scared – we all are – but although I’ve never met this man, the rest of them have.”
“Several times,” one of the young girls said with a grin, which disappeared when Cassie and Jenny Craig looked at her.
“From all they’ve told me, so long as we do what they say, we’re going to be fine, isn’t that right Mr Edwards?”
Jay smiled as Angela stared at him, before he said “you are quite correct, lass. Everyone breathe in – well, as much as these costumes will allow you – and stay calm.”
“Geraldine my dear, I’m just going...”
The group looked round as a grey haired man entered the room by a second door, only to stop when he saw the masked intruders.
“What the... Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”
“Good morning, Your Lordship. My name is Jay Edwards – Please, excuse the unscheduled visit, but, well, we tend not to let people know in advance we are calling.”
“I’m sorry, your Lordship,” the other woman said, “they just burst in when I opened the door...”
“It’s all right Mrs Danvers,” he said calmly, “I understand you could not have stopped them. I have heard of you, and know your reputation – I’m not sure if I should be flattered or terrified.”
“A common reaction, I assure you,” Jay said, “May I present my close associate, Mrs McPhee? She will be ensuring your daughter and your guests remain comfortable and safe during our visit.”
Mrs McPhee made a small bow as Viscount Markson looked at her.
“Now,” Jay continued, “I know you are a busy man, so I shall be brief. We have no interest in your personal finances, but those you control in your positions of authority are of interest to us. Two of my associates are going to accompany you to your meeting this morning, to ensure you tell nobody of what is happening here today. From there, they will direct you to certain other locations, and tell you what you need to do there.
“While you are doing this, we will ensure everyone else here at Markson Manor is taken care of and not harmed – so long as you do not try and do anything to raise the alarm, or do not follow my associates’ requests. I trust I make myself very clear?”
“Very clear,” Viscount Markson said as he looked at us. “Geraldine, Mrs Danvers, I want you to do whatever they tell you to do, and to cooperate fully. I do not want you to get hurt.”
“What about Mother and Alun?”
“They were not due to call today anyway, and no visitors are due, so hopefully nobody else will get pulled into this. When do you wish to start?”
“Immediately – I know you have the public meeting this morning, so if you will leave with these two gentlemen?”
As he walked out, Gerri said “Please, Daddy, don’t do anything stupid.”
“Don’t worry,” he said as he looked at her and smiled, “I wouldn’t put any of you in danger.”
Jay followed them out, before he said “You both know what you need to do?”
As they nodded, he looked at Viscount Markson and said “I regret that this will take some time, but my friends here will ensure you are comfortable, and will be in touch with me at fixed intervals, to assure me of your full co-operation.”
The older man nodded as he collected his car keys, and the trio left the house, while Jay came back in.
“Now then – it seems we have a few more young people to look after than I anticipated. Like I said, we have to stop meeting like this – but regretfully, I am also aware of your abilities, young ladies. So, here’s what’s going to happen. We will need to make sure you cannot raise the alarm, so you will all be bound and under guard at all times. While you, Lady Markson, and your housekeeper will only be secured enough for today, these young ladies are all known to me – so I regret to say you will be fully secured and silenced.”
He then looked at Angela and said “You as well, Miss Bowden – if you are related to young Suzie and Alicia, then I have no doubt you are as skilled.”
“Dinnae worry, lass,” Mrs McPhee said as she walked over to Gerri and took her arm, “it’s not as bad as it sounds. Come with me – I need ye to find a few things for me...”
“Now then,” Jay said as the door closed, two of his men still holding Mrs Danvers, “which of you young ladies would like to tell me why you are all dressed in such Victorian finery?”
“Well,” Cassie said, “we were invited here for the weekend by Viscount Markson to see a film that was made here – Alicia and Angela were extras, and Lord Holderness was one of the financial backers.”
“Is that right,” Jay said as he looked at Angela and Alicia.
“That’s right – it has its premiere this weekend in London,” Angela said.
“Okay – so the dressing up?”
“A lot of the costumes were kept here,” Cassie said as Suzie looked at him, “so we asked last night if we could try them on. Well, this morning when we woke up, we were all dressed like this – and then...”
“And then we arrive,” Jay said with a smile. “It’s not the first time I have interrupted you when you played dress up, is it?”
“No,” Suzie said, “and that led to my new home, but...”
“Ah – thank you Mrs McPhee,” Jay said quietly as Gerri came back in, “just what we need. Please place those socks on the seat there, Your Ladyship.”
We all watched as Gerri put several pairs of white socks down, and then sat on a two seat couch as Mrs Danvers was sat next to her. Mrs McPhee took two lengths of cord and tied their wrists together in front of them as Jay said “Well, we must begin. May I have two volunteers?”
Mrs McPhee smiled as she, Jay and the other men began the process of securing Patty and Rachel Rigg, covering their hands and adding the white socks before they were fully secured. She then pushed a cloth into their mouths, used knotted strips of towelling as cleave gags, and then wrapped the wide white micropore tape around their heads, the associates holding their bonnets as she did this.
She was surprised when they indicated they wanted the silver duct tape as well, but added the extra band, keeping it over the white band to protect their hair, and then tied folded cloths over that to make it look like a picture from the time.
As the next two girls came up, Jay said “while we’re doing this, disconnect the phone lines, and make sure any internet connection is terminated for the time being.”
“Here we go again,” Suzie whispered to Cassie as their hands were covered, Patty and Rachel sitting down and watching.
“How on earth can you all remain so calm,” Mrs McPhee heard Geraldine say to Angela, but the other girl just smiled and said “I’ll explain later – this isn’t the time.”
“Honestly, Gerri, it’s not as bad as it looks,” Cassie said as Mrs McPhee started to tie her arms to her sides. “I mean, the first time Jenny and I met Jay Edwards, we were just as scared as you were, especially when he tied us up and gagged us like this, as well as our mum. But – well, if you treat it like a big game, it’s not so bad.”
“I will say this – you’re all much braver than I am,” Gerri said as the girls were gagged and then their bonnets replaced, before they were helped to sit down and the next two girls stood up.
As Angela Bowden was bound, and had her bonnet removed, she looked at Mrs McPhee and said “I need to tell the girls something while I can.”
“Girls – because of the corset you’re all wearing, you’ll have noticed your breathing is different. Well, given we’re all going to be very effectively gagged, do NOT do anything that will make you try to breathe harder. Take it easy, relax, and no jumping around this time, all right?”
“Ysslshhhe,” they all said before Mrs McPhee gagged Angela.
“Good advice, girls,” Mrs McPhee said as she turned to Jay and the other associates. “All right you lot – turn around for ae few minutes, and no peeking!”
Jay smiled as they did just that, while Mrs McPhee knelt in front of Patty, and moved her skirt, petticoats and hoop up a bit before she bound her ankles and her legs below her knees, making sure she cinched both bands.
“You’ve worn clothes like this before, haven’t you,” Gerri said as she moved down the line.
“Nae comment,” Mrs McPhee said, “but I know decorum meant the men of Victorian times should not see the ankles, never mind the legs, so we’re going to do the same here.”
Once she had finished, she looked at the girls and said “All right, ye can turn round now.”
“Thank you Mrs McPhee,” Jay said with a smile. “Well, a film premiere is a very important event, so I see no reason why it should not take place. Mrs McPhee, would you please take Lady Markson to fetch the film for viewing.”
As they left the room, Gerri turned to Mrs McPhee and said “how can you live with yourself, frightening young kids and threatening us like that!”
“Oh – do they seem to be frightened to you,” Mrs McPhee said with a smile. Gerri thought for a moment, and then said “Well, now that you come to mention it...”
“And are you afraid?”
“A little – I mean...”
“That’s understandable,” Mrs McPhee said, “but remember, you are responsible for them, so we make it as much fun as possible. Now, the film?”
When they returned, they saw Mrs Danvers tied to a chair, a strip of white tape over her mouth as she looked back at them.
Jay smiled as he stood behind the bound and gagged girls, and said “Excellent. Please, introduce the movie Lady Markson.”
Gerri slowly put the DVD into the machine, and then stood by the side of the screen, holding the controller as Jay, Mrs McPhee, and some of the other associates sat down.
“Well,” she eventually said as she took a deep breath, “the film is called The Awakening, and it’s loosely based on a story from our family history. A hundred and fifty years ago, the oldest daughter of the then Viscount Markson met and fell deeply in love with a young officer in the British Army. The story goes that they were engaged to be married when he was ordered to South Africa, to fight in the Boer War.
“Alun has always been fascinated by our family history, so the film covers their courtship, and how Amelia, the daughter, coped when he returned injured from that war. We open in the year 1863, and I really hope you enjoy it.”
As they watched, both Mark and Yvonne found themselves engrossed in the movie. On the one hand, they could see how Desmond and the others could be justifiably proud of what Angela and Alicia had done, and it was a really good film. On the other, they could see for themselves where some of the filming was done, and Yvonne in particular loved the look of the costumes used.
“That, ma dear, was a truly beautiful film,” Mrs McPhee said as the end credits rolled, “Truly beautiful.”
“Thanks, I guess,” Gerri said with a little smile, “but really it was Alun’s film. I just helped out.”
“Well,” Jay said as he stood up, “Thank you for that, but what I would like for you to do now is to give our party and the girls a tour of the Manor House, if you would be so kind. It will help pass the time, and I think prove educational at the same time.”
“Well – I do guided tours for select groups on occasion, and I guess it will take your minds off the situation,” Gerri said. “And I did promise to show you the rest of the building, if you are still interested?”
The girls all nodded in unison, as Mrs McPhee whispered into Jay’s ear “If you men would avert your eyes...”
“Of course – gentlemen, allow them some privacy,” he said as he and the other associates stood facing the wall, while Mrs McPhee untied their ankles and knees and helped them to stand up.
“I know you gals like to jump around when tied as a rule, from past experience,” Mrs McPhee said, “but with the costumes on, you would soon be breathless, and that’s not a guid idea just now. So you will walk – like ladies.”
As Mrs Danvers was untied and led off, Gerri started the tour, both Jay and Mrs McPhee listening as they walked round, and helped the girls up and down the stairs...
After a while, they were all escorted to the dining room, where Mrs Danvers had already been secured. One by one, the girls were tied to chairs before Gerri was made to sit down, and her arms and legs secured. A strip of white tape was pressed over her mouth, as Mrs Danvers was released.
“Now just sit nicely, and Mrs Danvers and I will sort out lunch. Keep an eye on them, boys.” Mrs McPhee said as they went out of one door, Jay slipping into the main hallway and going back up the stairs. As they had walked past earlier, he had noted Gerri said nothing about the room, so he guessed it was the private office.
Naturally, the door was locked, but it only took him a few minutes to pick the lock and make his way in. As Mark looked round, he saw he was right about it been an office, and he quickly searched through the letters and papers left out as well as in a filing cabinet.
“Bills... Confirmation letters... Personal Correspondence...” he said to himself, soon realising there was nothing there that was going to help him with his other assignment. Shaking his head, he left the room, closing the door behind himself and making sure it was locked, before he walked down the stairs.
“And where did you disappear to?”
“Looking for some sort of clue as to where the letters Brian was talking about may be,” Mark said as he looked at Yvonne, “but no luck so far.”
“Well, keep looking – it’s a big house and you’ve only had time to check a few rooms. Look – the girls are secured and eating, and the boys can manage for now. Why don’t we take a look in here?”
Yvonne pointed to a door to one side across the hallway, which they both walked over to. As Mark opened the door, and they both walked in, they saw a store cupboard.
“Nothing here,” Yvonne said as they tried the next door, and opened it, only for Yvonne to gasp and say “oh my...”
“What is it,” Mark said as they both walked in, and he looked at the rows of costumes on hangers, everything from ballgowns to domestics clothing.
“Oh my goodness,” Yvonne said as she walked round, wide eyed as she touched the clothes, “these must be the costumes from the film. The girls must be wearing some of these.”
“I wonder why they have them stored here,” Mark said as she walked round, and then saw the way his wife was looking at some of them. “You want to, don’t you?”
“Oh I would love to, but we’re working...”
“And? It might help put them even more at ease if you look like them.”
“Those girls? They’d be at ease even if...”
“You know that’s not true, Yvonne,” Mark said quietly, “her ladyship for starters. Go on – what would you wear?”
Yvonne quickly selected a dark blue checked dress, and a pile of petticoats and other items, before she said “help me change Mark. I need to strip down first.”
As Mark collected her clothes, Yvonne put on a chemise and a pair of drawers, before she fastened a corset round herself. “Right – pull the cords behind me until I tell you to stop,” she said, taking a deep breath as Mark tightened the garment around her, and then tied it off in a large bow. She then stepped into the cage, and asked Mark to pull it up and secure it round her waist, before putting on the petticoats and finally the blue dress. As he fastened it, Yvonne then put on a blue bonnet and fastened it round her head, before checking her balaclava and gloves were still in place.
“A very Victorian governess,” Mark said with a smile. “Let’s get back in and get something to eat.”
As they walked back into the dining room, the girls turned their heads and gasped as they saw the new Mrs McPhee.
“I hope you don’t mind, Lady Markson, but I really felt this would make you all more comfortable.”
“Well,” the older girl said as she looked at Mrs McPhee, “I have to say you do wear it well.”
“Why thank you,” she said as she and Jay took a plate of food and a drink, and disappeared again for a few minutes into another room.
“Once we’ve eaten,” Jay said quietly, “we let them go to the toilet, re-tie them and then let them finish the tour. We may get a few more hints about where to look. Then, if you can distract them, I’ll have a bit more of a look around.”
“Got it,” Mrs McPhee said as they ate.
“Well, I think that concludes our tour for now,” Gerri Markson said as they came back to the room they had started in. “Sit down girls,” Mrs McPhee said as the men turned their backs.
“Stay here and assist,” Jay said as he made his way back up the stairs, going over in his mind what their reluctant guide had said. She had said something about the Viscount sleeping in the same room through the years, so he walked into the oak panelled room and looked round. It was well furnished, with a large oil painting of Markson Manor hanging on the wall facing the bed.
“Oh now it wouldn’t be that simple, would it,” Jay said to himself as he felt along the frame, and then heard a small click as the painting swung out, revealing a wall safe. Smiling, he went to work on it, and within ten minutes had it open.
The only thing inside was a folded letter, which he took out and read. Printed on the piece of paper was a series of letters and numbers, and nothing else.
“XPF 463,” Jay said to himself, “what does that...” He then remembered that during the tour, the young Lady had pointed out a door which she had said led to the cellar, which had a number of storerooms which were not really used these days.
Replacing the document carefully and closing the safe door, Jay moved the painting back and left the room, walking down the rear staircase and finding the cellar door. Fishing in his pocket, he took out a small torch and opened the cellar door, making his way down the stone stairs and marvelling at how well a disused cellar was maintained.
At the bottom of the stairs was a long corridor, and as Jay shone the torch down he saw doors going off at each side. Each door was labelled with a combination of letters and numbers, which he looked at until he stopped outside one.
“XPF 463.” Taking the lock picks out, he soon opened the door and looked in, finding a light switch which he pressed down as he closed the door. The room was bare, except for the heavy stone bench against the opposite wall. Looking round, Jay felt the walls, and then shook his head.
“Another dead end,” Jay said with a sigh as he sat on the heavy stone bench – and then stood up again, looking closely at it.
“This isn’t stone,” he said quietly, “this is wood. Now why would he paint it to look like stone?”
Taking hold, he lifted the bench, and was shocked to discover the floor lifting with him, and a staircase appeared. Turning the torch back on, he walked slowly downstairs, finding another locked door at the bottom. As he picked the lock, he walked into a cool, dark room.
“What have we here,” Jay said as he shone the torch round, and found a switch. Flicking it down, he turned round and gasped “Oh... My... God...”
Looking round the room, Jay could see it was lined with chests – wooden chests and metal ones, all padlocked shut. There had to be over a hundred of them, all the way round the room. Walking to the first one, he picked the padlock and opened it, gasping as he saw the gold and jewels inside. There were also silver and coins, and as Jay picked up one he looked at it before whispering “this is a Spanish doubloon, how did it...”
There was an old parchment on top of the jewels, and as he looked carefully he read “From her most gracious majesty Elizabeth Regina to Sir Nathan Markson...” The letter was a commendation for his work, and for his donations to the royal coffers.
“My god – this is the Caribbean treasure,” he whispered to himself as he replaced the parchment and locked the chest, moving down and opening others to reveal diamonds, Indian treasures, and more.
“The cunning beggars,” Jay said to himself as he remembered Gerri’s story of the spent and lost treasures. “So why did they spread the story of their lack of finances, when they’re sitting on all this?”
As he looked at the last chest, which had a date of two years ago, Jay opened it to find two envelopes inside. One had “Alun Markson” written on the front, which Jay carefully opened and read.
My Dear Alun,
If you are reading this, then I have died, and you are now Viscount Markson. As such, it is time to tell you the family secret, as you will have found the first letter as outlined in my will. You will have discovered the chests, and naturally you have questions. Let me try to answer them.
As you will now have realised, we are not as penniless as you thought. What you see around you is the accumulation of all the treasures collected by the Markson family through the years. Each Viscount has been charged with keeping this a secret, and some have actually been seen as spendthrifts to maintain the secret. Should you choose to do this, I cannot stop you, but this treasure must remain a secret, even from Geraldine.
I advise you, however, to continue to live as we have lived. Live within your means, maintain the manor, and know this sits as a reserve for use in dire emergency only. And when you pass the title on, ensure a letter is left for your heir to direct them here.
I have one further request of you, my son. Next to this letter you will find a second envelope. Read it, and do as I ask, Alun. I assure you it is necessary and important, and thank you.
Be wise, my son, and live well.
Geoffrey, Viscount Markson
Jay carefully replaced the letter and looked round. “Oh it’s so tempting – but no,” he said quietly before he opened the second letter and looked at it.
As you know, I have served my country well and with honour, and in the passage of that duty I have been privy to sensitive information. There are a batch of letters I have in my possession, separate from whatever else you have found today, the contents of which would lead to the certain ruin of those people. I gave my word that so long as I lived, I would divulge this information to nobody, and I am a man of my word.
As you are reading this, then I have passed on, and that vow is fulfilled. Therefore, it falls to you to decide what to do with these letters.
Attached to this letter is a map that shows the location of a strongbox, within which the letters are secreted. Alun, retrieve the strongbox, and then either destroy the letters or forward them to the powers in charge at this time. Do NOT read the letters.
I grieve this falls to you, but I trust you to do the right thing, my son.
Jay looked at the letter, and then the map attached to it of the grounds of the Manor. A large X was marked on one spot, Jay smiling as he said “gotcha.”
As Jay walked into the dining room, he saw the girls all round the table, tied to the chairs as the food was brought in.
“Allow me to pour you all a drink,” he said as he poured water into their glasses, and then took a plate of food, Mrs McPhee following him out of the room.
As they sat in the room next door, Yvonne said “well?”
“You are not going to believe this,” Mark said as he cut into the food, “but I discovered something amazing.”
She raised an eyebrow as Mark said “I’ll tell you later, out of earshot of our friends...”
As the girls sat on the floor, and stared at each other with their skirts covering their bound legs, Jay said to the other masked men “I need one of you to stand guard – let them talk. The rest of you, find a room upstairs and get things ready for their bedtime. Tell our friend with the housekeeper to take her to the girls’ rooms when they are finished and make sure their bedclothes are ready for them, and then wait up there.”
They nodded as Mrs McPhee came over, Jay saying “Watch them” before they walked out and closed the door.
As the associates went to their tasks, Jay and Mrs McPhee went out into the grounds, looking out over the lawns.
“So what did you find?”
Jay said nothing, but took out a doubloon from his pocket and handed it to Mrs McPhee. She looked at it, wide eyed before she said “is this genuine?”
“Oh yes – I found a room with chests full to bursting with more treasure than you have ever seen in your life. The Markson family are rich beyond belief – and careful with it.”
“Oh my,” Mrs McPhee said quietly. “Where...”
“That’s not the best bit – I also found this.” He took from his inside pocket the map and showed it to her.
“The location of the letters?”
“Looks like it – he has a very careful plan in place for how to dispose of them after his death. This marks the spot – but it’s too vague to pinpoint exactly.”
“We have one advantage,” Mrs McPhee said as they walked round the grounds, “sunset is not until very late. If we can find that spot, and get them all secured and out of the way in time, then...”
“We can find the letters, copy them, return them and return this with no sign we even looked,” Jay said with a smile. “The key is going to be finding this spot, and then doing what we need to do.”
Mrs McPhee nodded as she saw the sun start to go down. “Let’s find a detailed map, look at it and this later, and do this tomorrow night,” she said as she looked over.
“Yeah – looking at it, I think that grove over there is possible, but you’re right,” Jay said, “we need to get them secured for the night.”
As they walked back into the manor house, and into the room, Jay smiled and said “Well, I think it’s time we started to prepare you all for bed. We’ll start with you, Lady Markson, and you young Rachel.”
The girls watched as Rachel and Gerri had their legs untied, and then walked out of the room. When Mrs McPhee walked down a few minutes later, and untied Patty, Jay walked up the stairs with them and then found the large sitting room that had been selected.
“Excellent,” he said as Rachel was brought in by another of the associates. “Now, you know what’s going to happen. Afraid?”
“Not when you or one of the girls are doing this,” Rachel said as Patty was brought in.
“Good – then Patty will take care of you...”
He watched as Patty covered Rachel’s hands, the two girls giggling as she slowly immobilised her friend’s hands and tied her arms to her side, and then gagged her with the cloth and knotted strip. She then wrapped the white tape round Rachel’s head, trapping her hair in place, before she picked up the silver tape.
“Where did you learn that?”
“Sleepover,” Patty said in reply to Jay’s question as she carefully wound the silver tape over the white band, and then added a strip of white cloth over it, before tying Rachel’s arms to her sides with the ropes above and below her chest. As she walked over, Mrs McPhee brought Cassie in, as Jay said “Good – bind Patty, Cassie.”
“I trust you are not too uncomfortable, Lady Markson,” Jay said as Mrs McPhee tied Gerri’s bound ankles to the foot of her bed.
“Then I suggest you get comfortable,” Jay said with a smile, “good night Your Ladyship.”
As he stepped outside with Mrs McPhee, he looked at the associates and said “Take turns keeping watch during the night, Mrs McPhee and I will be in the room over there.”
“Got it Jay,” the men said as they went downstairs, and Jay looked in on Mrs Danvers. The housekeeper was dressed in a pair of white silk pyjamas, but was as securely tied and gagged as the other hostages. She stare at both the masked intruders, before Jay closed the door.
“I’ll be up in a minute,” Jay said as Mrs McPhee went into the bedroom, and he went back down to the library. Turning the light on, he said “there has to be one around somewhere” as he checked the bookshelves and drawers.
As he did so, his mobile phone went off, Jay taking it out and looking at it before he answered it.
“This is Jay
“Excellent – and he gave you no problems at the public meeting?
“Good – where are you now?
“Right – make sure he does not try to escape, and contact me again at the arranged time tomorrow.”
Ending the call and finding what he wanted, he smiled as he went back up to the room, finding Yvonne in bed in a long nightdress as he came in.
“What have you got there Mark?”
“A modern map of the grounds,” Mark said as he removed his balaclava, and then smiled as he stripped off. Taking the sketch map, he spread it out on the bed as the two of them looked at it.
“Looks like we were right about the copse,” Yvonne said as she looked between the two.
“Yes – I’ll see what I can do in the morning,” Mark said as he folded the maps and put them to one side. “Right now, we need to get some sleep – busy day tomorrow...”
As Mark opened his eyes, he saw the sun starting to appear through the window. Glancing at the clock, he saw it was just after four, so he nudged Yvonne and said “time to go to work, darling.”
“What already,” Yvonne said as she turned over and looked at him.
“Indeed – mask on, grab a robe, and get cleaned up before we select another costume for you.”
As they went into the costume room, Yvonne smiled as she looked at grey and blue striped dress with a tiered skirt. “This one,” she said with a smile as she looked at Mark, “give me a hand will you?”
“Of course, Mrs McPhee,” Mark said as he became Jay, and helped his partner to dress in the Victorian clothes. As she adjusted the dress, he then said “I think Mrs Danvers first – allow her to get dressed and start preparing breakfast.”
“It sounds a fair idea, m’lord,” Mrs McPhee said with a little bow as they walked up the stairs to Mrs Danver’s rooms, the associates getting ready elsewhere. As they walked in, they saw Mrs Danvers open her eyes and look at them.
“We’re going to untie you,” Jay said quietly, “and allow you to wash and dress. You will then go with an associate and start to prepare breakfast for the girls – all right?”
She nodded as they started to untie her, and then allowed her to go to her private bathroom. As she came out, wearing a knee length black dress, she looked at them and said “What are you going to do to me today?”
“Well, it is Sunday,” Mrs McPhee said, “so prepare a full Sunday meal for the ladies. Our friends will help as they watch over you – but no attempts to raise the alarm, or you will be the same as them.”
She nodded as one of the associates knocked on the door. “Take Mrs Danvers to the kitchen,” Mrs McPhee said as they walked out of the room, and entered Gerri’s room. The older girl was still sleeping, as Jay said “Good morning, Your Ladyship – time to get up.”
As Gerri slowly opened her eyes, she mumbled “hgdffrrr?”
“Your father is doing what we asked him to do, and he wants you to remain calm. We’re going to untie you, and let you shower while Mrs McPhee and one of our friends beings your costume up. All right?”
“Lllrrtt,” Gerri said as she was helped to sit up, Jay untying her as Mrs McPhee left the room for a few minutes. Gerri’s room had an ensuite bathroom, so once she was able to move she untied and removed the gag from her mouth, and then headed straight in without saying a word.
As she came out, wearing a chemise, Mrs McPhee returned with a cream dress that had brown floral print, as well as the undergarments. “This had your name on it, so it should be suitable,” she said as she laid the clothes out. “Once we have you dressed, Your Ladyship, we will let all the other girls wear costumes again – but this time, we can allow them to dress themselves as much as possible. All right?”
“I will leave both of you to it,” Jay said as he made his excuses, nodding to the associate outside the door before he went downstairs and out into the grounds. Looking at the modern map of the manor, and the treasure map, he looked round and then down to the copse of trees he and Mrs McPhee had looked at earlier.
Walking slowly over, he consulted the pair of maps, and then went between two large ash trees, looking down between them. Nodding, he paced between them, and then said to himself “this must be it.” Squatting down, he patted the grass, and smiled.
“And this is where I realise I don’t have a shovel,” he said as he looked at his watch, “even if I had the time.” Standing up, he picked up two twigs and made a cross, before he walked back into the manor house and the kitchen.
“Allow me to help you,” he said as he looked at Mrs Danvers, who nodded as he, his associate and her took two plates each, and carried them into the dining room. As they got closer, he smiled as he heard Rachel say “But we’re not babies anymore!”
“No – no you’re not,” Mrs McPhee said, “but you are the youngest.”
“Listen,” Angela then said, “when this is over, we’ll find some more adult clothes for you to wear – you’re the same size as some of the adult extras anyway.”
“Ah good, I’m sure you’re all ready for something to eat, so tuck in.” He helped to serve the food, taking two plates for himself and Mrs McPhee as they went into the other room.
“Listen – can we do something before lunch Mark,” Yvonne said as they sat down and ate.
“Of course – what?”
“Show me the treasure room?”
“No problem – I need to put this letter back anyway,” Mark said as he took a drink from a coffee mug. “Look, we’ll get them settled, and then I was going to put a morning service on. Once that’s done, I’ll take you down – sound good?”
Jay stood up as the service finished, looked at the right bound and gagged girls, before saying “now, we have a few things to sort out, so you will all stay here for the moment. I’m sure we can find something to amuse you.” Flipping through the channels, he stopped as he found a Penelope Pitstop marathon on Boomerang.
“Well now – I think this is entirely appropriate,” he said as he nodded, and then left the room.
“Make sure Mrs Danvers has all the help she needs,” he said to two of the men, before they took the bound and gagged housekeeper, and he went to the cellar, Mrs McPhee following him.
As she entered room XPF 463, and took her down to the storeroom, Mrs McPhee gasped as she looked round.
“Let me get this back first,” Mark said as he unlocked the chest, put the two letters back as he had found them, and locked that chest. While he did this, Yvonne walked slowly round, looking in some of the chests.
“My god – all this history in one room,” she said quietly as she looked at Mark, and then picked up a large cut diamond.
“I know – and it has to stay here. I don’t think it is fair to them to know we know. There’s something else to consider as well.”
“If he knows we found this, he’ll know we may have found the letters?”
“I know, but... Mark, look at this.”
She held up a pair of emeralds, and smiled. She saw her husband smile in turn, as he produced a small velvet sack and said “if we are careful, and take from a variety of chests, I am sure they can spare a few...”
Mark selected a number of jewels with Yvonne’s help, putting them into the bag before closing and locking all the chests, and then retracing their steps, making sure everything was put perfectly back into place as they ascended to the main hallway.
As he went up to their room, Mrs McPhee came into the television room and said “Well now lassies, its lunch time. Do ye want to talk or jump?”
She smiled as Patty and Rachel started to jump to the door, before she said “I think that answers my question,” and opened the door for them.
“Well, they certainly seem to be keeping their spirits up,” Mrs McPhee said as she and Jay sat eating their lunch.
“I know,” he said quietly, “We’ll let them jump around a bit after we have eaten, get the men to watch them while we decide what we’re going to do next.”
“So we need to dig up this box, photograph the contents, and replace it as if it had not been disturbed?”
“Exactly,” Jay said, “piece of cake, yeah?”
“Well, if the girls are jumping around, we could go and do it then.”
“I don’t know – it’s still bright out there, and we may be seen.”
Mrs McPhee shook her head as she said “come on then – let’s get them secured and then let them loose.”
“Funny,” Jay said with a laugh as they went through, and Mrs McPhee released Patty and Rachel from the chairs.
When she came back a little while later with Suzie, Mrs McPhee was brought up short by Rachel saying “There now Lassie, now we’ll just cover your head with this tape, and you willnae be scared, will you?”
She looked over at Jay Edwards, who merely smiled and shook his head as Rachel tried to sound like her while tying Patty up as much as she had been told to do. Shaking her own head, she released Cassie from the chair and escorted her to the toilet, wondering why Rachel had done that then...
“I have no idea,” Mark said as he sat with Yvonne in the second floor room, looking through the telescope at the grounds, “but she has a talent, doesn’t she?”
“Hmmm,” Mary said as she looked out of the window. “Honestly, Mark, I can’t see anyone – we should go and do it now.”
“No – I’m not prepared to take the risk.”
“It’s not like you to be so nervous about this sort of thing? What’s going on?”
Before he could answer, Jay’s mobile phone went off. Taking it out, he said “this is Jay.
“Excellent – and His Lordship?
“Good – remain with him and keep him secure until I give the word. Timing is crucial now – one false step and we all get caught. Await my call.”
“Have they finished?”
“Yeah,” Mark said as he put his phone away. “I’m just a little nervous of being discovered – and the fact we somehow managed to take the girls hostage again.” Rubbing his eyes, he said “I mean, we plan a visit as far away from Holderness as you can get, and we still run into Cassie and Jenny, never mind the others?”
“Hey come on,” Yvonne said, “there is no way you could have known they would be here.”
“I know – but I swore they would not get involved again, and here we are – not just John’s family, but Alex’s as well!”
“Listen Mark,” Yvonne said as she took his hands, “you swore you would never deliberately target them again, and you didn’t did you? Besides, think of what you’re doing for Brian, and the good that will come from that.”
Mark nodded as Yvonne continued “if nothing else, they kept Lady Markson calm, and we should be grateful for that.”
“True – so now what?”
“Now,” Yvonne said as they stood up, and they moved the telescope to point to the sky, “we help them get up here to have a move round, and we go back downstairs, lay our plans for later.”
Mark nodded as they went down to the first floor, and Mrs McPhee helped the girls to climb the stairs. When she came back down, she was holding a DVD case.
“I found this last night when I was securing Angela,” Mrs McPhee said as Jay looked at the case. “We need to get them all secured and in bed early tonight, to allow us time to do the other job, right?”
Jay nodded as Mrs McPhee said “I’ve seen this once before at Holderness. I think Her Ladyship may be very interested in watching this, she seems to be enjoying the feeling of being bound and gagged as much as the others.”
“And once this is over?”
“We get them to bind and gag each other, one at a time, and settle them before we take care of Lady Markson and Mrs Danvers. Then while the others watch them, we can get to work.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jay said quietly, “so let’s get them fed and ready.”
They made their way back up to the second floor, where the eight girls had gathered in a reading room. “Time for supper soon I think,” Jay said as he came in, “we’ll untie your ankles and legs, and leave them that way for the meal tonight, so long as you all behave. All right?”
A little while later, they were all sat round the table, watching as the food and plates were brought in. Jay then said “Shall I play father,” as he carved the meat and the plates were handed round. Eventually, he said “You may remove your bonnets and gags,” collecting the material with Mrs Danvers and Mrs McPhee before Angela said the grace.
It was as they were about to take their food out that Jenny looked at them, and said “May I ask a question before you go?”
“Of course, Jenny, what is your question?”
“Will you be here when we wake up tomorrow morning?”
They looked at each other, before Jay said “No – this will be the last day of our visit here.”
“Oh thank God.”
They smiled at Gerri’s comment as they left the room, and went to where they had been eating all weekend.
“There are some by the kitchen door,” Mrs McPhee said in answer to Jay’s question, “we can pick one up later.”
“Again, I assure you that come the morning, we will have gone Your Ladyship,” Mrs McPhee said as she pulled the rope securing Gerri’s ankles to her chest ropes tight, “and thank you for your hospitality over the last two days.”
“His Lordship is well, and I am sure just as anxious to return home as you are to see him. When we have left, he will also be left to be found, but I assure you by the morning you will be freed.”
Gerri nodded as Mrs McPhee closed the door, and walked back along the corridor, meeting Jay as he came down.
“Secured and silenced – she fell asleep very quickly,” Jay said as he turned to his masked associates. “Keep an eye on the girls – Mrs McPhee and I have one more task to perform. You - come with us.”
One of the men nodded as they went downstairs, Jay and the man selecting a long coat, a hat and a scarf from a cupboard to put on as Mrs McPhee put a scarf round her face.
“I need you to not say a word of what we are doing to anyone,” Jay said to the man, who nodded as he said “Come on Jay – how long have we known each other?”
“Long enough to know I trust you,” he said as the trip went through the kitchen, Mrs McPhee carrying a clutch bag as he picked up two shovels, and they walked across the lawns to the copse.
“Is this the spot,” Mrs McPhee said as they found the crossed twigs.
“Yeah – we need to lift this piece of turf, and then dig a little,” Jay said as he handed the associate one, and they dug the turf away, laying it to one side before he started to remove the dirt. It didn’t take long for them to hit a box, and as the associate cleared the dirt away he lifted out a small metal strongbox.
“Not of the sort we can use – help Mrs McPhee get ready,” Jay said as he started to work on the lock of the strongbox. Mrs McPhee opened her bag and took out a small cloth, which she laid on the grass before she also removed a camera, and two bottles, one with a dropper, the other a roller.
Jay slowly opened the strongbox, and took out a plastic bag. Carefully opening it, he took out a second clear bag, inside which were a number of sealed letters.
“Here,” he said as he opened it and passed the first one to Mrs McPhee. She took the dropper bottle and dropped the clear liquid on the seal, before opening the envelope and taking a folded letter out. Unfolding it, she glanced at the contents and said “oh my god...”
“Sorry,” she said as she looked up at the sky, which was starting to darken, and laid the letter on the white sheet, taking a picture before she folded it and put it back in the envelope. The second bottle she then rubbed on the envelope, before resealing it and handing it to the associate.
“What was on the letter?”
“I’ll tell you one day, laddie,” Mrs McPhee said as one by one the letters were opened, photographed and resealed. There were just over fifty, so that by the time the last letter was re-sealed the sun had almost set, and the trees made it almost impossible to see.
“Let’s finish this,” Jay said as they replaced the chest, locked and secured, in the ground, covered it with dirt and then laid the turf back over, Jay and the associate walking over it to try and disguise as much as possible the fact the ground had been disturbed.
“Do I want to ask what that was about Jay,” the associate said as they walked back.
“Doing a favour for a friend, and let’s leave it at that,” Jay said as they came back into the manor house, Jay making sure the shovels were clean before they were replaced, and then the scarves, hats and coats returned to the cupboard.
“Go and tell the others to make final checks – I want nothing of us left here,” Jay said as he and Mrs McPhee returned to the costume store, Jay helping as Mrs McPhee removed her dress and hung it on the racks. The rest of the garments were then placed where they needed to be, the undergarments in a hamper, before she put back on the boiler suit and boots.
“Enjoy the weekend,” Jay said with a smile.
“Immensely,” Mrs McPhee said as they came back out, and went to the bedrooms, making sure all the girls were still asleep and secure before they gathered in the hallway.
“Everything cleaned and cleared?”
He watched as the associates nodded, before he said “good – let’s head home.”
The group went out to the van, the associates getting in the back as Jay and Mrs McPhee climbed in the front. Taking out his mobile, he smiled as he dialled and then said “this is Jay – leave His Lordship to be found, and you will receive your share later.”
Starting the engine, he drove off into the darkness, Mrs McPhee nodding beside him...
“Hey – you could have woken me, you know?”
Mark nodded as Yvonne came into the kitchen, while he looked at his laptop. “I know – but you needed the sleep,” he said as he sipped his coffee, and continued to look at the screen.
“What did you read of the letters when we were taking these photos yesterday?”
“Enough – did you see the one about the Law Lord?”
Mark slowly nodded his head before he said “while not illegal in itself, that would cause some problems. But some of the others...”
“There are one or two in there I really think should be made public, what with Saville and all that...”
“Yeah – but that’s not our call,” Mark said quietly, “I just hope Brian knows what he’s going to do. One wrong move with this, and...”
“Well,” Yvonne said as she looked at the clock, “you’d better call him.”
Nodding, Mark opened up a Skype window and made a call, smiling as he saw Sarah holding the toddlers as she answered.
“Hi Mark, Yvonne,” she said, “I was just getting them out of their seats before getting them dressed.”
“Oh, did we interrupt breakfast,” Mark said with a smile.
“Nah, we just finished,” Brian said as he appeared.
“I’ll go and get them ready,” Sarah said as she carried the two of them off, Brian waiting before he said “how did it go?”
“Well – in the sense of what we set out to do fine, but...”
“Oh no,” Brian said as he shook his head, “not again... Who this time?”
“Patty and Rachel, Suzie and Alicia, Cassie and Jenny, and Angela – they had been invited to a sneak preview of the film at Markson Manor.”
Brian chuckled and shook his head, before he said “Okay – that was a coincidence, I grant you. So?”
“We found and copied them, but this stuff is prose dynamite,” Mark said quietly, “I’m going to destroy my copies once I send them, but seriously Brian – watch your step. Let the wrong thing out, and he will be identified as the source.”
“I understand – trust me Mark. When can I have them?”
“I’ll send them in an encrypted message in thirty minutes. Like I say, they are dynamite.”
“Okay – I’ll let you know what happened in due course.” Looking at the screen, he said “how much sleep have you had?”
“Couple of hours – we had a very interesting weekend. I’ll get Yvonne to Skype you later and tell you and Sarah all about it.”
“Okay – looks like a tale to tell with a drink to hand anyway. We’ll talk later.”
As the call ended, Mark put all the pictures into a folder, and ran an encryption program before sending it off.
“I forgot to ask,” Yvonne said from the other side of the table, “how much did we take over the weekend?”
“Just over a million,” Mark said as he stretched, “when do the kids get back?”
“Couple of hours,” Yvonne said, “so what do you want to do?”
One week later
Mark was sitting at home, the kids upstairs with Yvonne, when the telephone rang. Putting his drink down, he went into the hallway, picking up the handset and saying “Hello?”
“Oh hi Brian,” Mark said as he went back into the living room, closing the door and pausing the film he was watching,
“I’m just calling to say you can destroy that file now – we got what we needed.”
“Good – so what did you make of them?”
“Well, interesting bedtime reading if I was so inclined,” Brian said with a chuckle, “but I understand why her kept them secret. Quite a few marriages and alliances would break down if they became public.”
“But they won’t will they?”
“Nope – 90% of that is blackmail material, but the remaining was enough to make sure the case I was working on for friends could be cracked. Thanks again.”
“Well I’m glad – sounds quiet there.”
“Sarah has gone with the twins to meet our house guests.”
“Ah yes – say hello for me to them when they arrive, if they’re still awake.”
“Understood – sleep well Mark.”
“You too,” Mark said as Yvonne came in.
“Yeah – he got what he needed. Listen – sit down Yvonne.”
“Oh – what’s happened,”
“I was watching the news while you were upstairs – seems the news of the raid on Markson Manor has proved a boon for The Awakening. It’s the highest grossing film at the moment.”
“Well, that’s nice to hear,” Yvonne said as she picked up her drink. “Any other news?”
“Nope – the raid on the corporate accounts, yes, but nothing else. On which note – I described one of the coins we took to our accountant.”
“Oh? What did Tiny say?”
“Too rich for his tastes – he offered to give me the name of a specialist, but he said in his eyes, it was worth at least six figures.”
“For one coin?”
“Yup – so consider what else we have, and you get just how rich the Markson family is.”
“So what do we do with them?”
“I’m going to arrange a safe deposit box – consider them a legacy for the kids,” Mark said quietly. “Some things are probably best held in private...”
As he spoke, Yvonne heard her mobile phone ping, and looked at the message.
“Well now – that’s interesting,” she said with a smile as she looked at Mark.
“Two friends are pregnant...”