Jayes and the House Guests
It was only once Gladys and Daphne had departed the flat, and Jayes and I were left alone for a moment, that the full enormity of the events of the last two days were brought home to me.
“My god, Jayes,” I gasped as I sat down and accepted W&S the stout fellow handed to me, “when I think of just how close we all came to finding ourselves enjoying an enforced holiday...”
“I appreciate the sentiment sir - were it not for the timely arrival of Mrs Arbuthnot, then it could indeed have been a most unfortunate conflagration of circumstances.”
I looked at him for a moment, standing there with the same expression in his face, and said eventually “You mean we’d have jumped from the frying pan into the fire?”
But dash it all - I’ve done it again haven’t I? Put the cart before the horse and all that? I need to go back a week or so, and start with a rather important dinner I had to attend at the country residence of Sir Clive Pugh, in deepest Monmouthshire.
Pugh Towers lies a short distance outside Chepstow - dashed convenient for the races as it were, and a grand old pile it was. I had been invited to spend the weekend with the Pugh family, and naturally my trusted right hand Jayes was waiting for me as I stepped out of the train from Paddington.
“Good afternoon Sir,” he said as he took the suitcases from the porter and paid him a suitable stipend. “I trust you had a pleasant journey?”
“As pleasant as you can expect from a cattle truck, Jayes,” I said as I looked round. “So, who else makes up this party?”
“Apart from Sir Clive, Lady Delores and the two ladies, the party consists of Mister and Mrs Willoughby, a business acquaintance of Sir Clive, and the Reverend Clive Manson and his wife.”
My eyes widened at the mention of the last names. “Manny Manson? Tall, broad shouldered, and looks like he could crush a statue with his bare hands?”
“That is a rather accurate description, if you will forgive me Sir, and somewhat misleading as to his true demeanour. Do you know the Reverend Gentleman?”
“Well, well, well - we were at college together, Jayes. Your description is most accurate - a man of formidable build, but the most gentle of natures. I wonder what beauty finally snagged him.”
For the briefest of moments, I could have sworn a smile flashed across Jayes face. “I know that look,” I said quietly, “What are you not telling me, Jayes?”
“I have no idea what you mean, Sir,” Jayes said quietly, “but we are expected. If you will enter the vehicle, we should make it in time for luncheon.”
The drive was uneventful, and so I arrived in pleasant mood at the house, to be greeted by a vision in white linen and gold brocade.
“Barty,” Gladys said as she enveloped me in her arms, and kissed my cheek, “I’m so glad you made it. It’s time to screw your courage to the mast, my fine young cavalier.”
“Don’t remind me,” I said as I smiled into her liquid eyes. “I shall see to the luggage, sir,” Jayes said with his usual quiet manners as a voice like a foghorn called out “Barty, you old sausage - what are you doing here?”
“Manny, my man,” I said as I shook the hand of Manny Manson, taking in the sight of him dressed not in torn rugby attire, but the quiet black shirt front and white collar of a clergyman. “So you joined the chorus of spiritual succour givers?”
“I have indeed, but I still remember the old college days,” Manny said as he put his arm round me and nodded to Gladys. “So much so that I was wondering if you would come down to my parish next week - there’s a little job I want you to do for me.”
“Well, anything for a friend, Manny - where are your flock based?”
“A quiet little village in the Hampshire downs, called Somerfield.”
I stopped short, and had Manny not had his arm round me like a vice I would have slipped to the ground. “Somerfield? Don’t tell me Aunt Agnes is in your flock?”
“Your Aunt Agnes?”
“Face like a crow, manners like a gargoyle, dresses in black?”
Manny smiled and said “Oh, Mrs Arbuthnot? I did not know she was your aunt! In fact, it makes thing easier.” Any further conversation was ended by the sound of the lunch gong, and my rapid entrance.
Lunch was a pleasant enough affair - the Willoughbys turned out to be of stout yeoman stock, and pleasant conversation ensued, but I could see Gladys was mildly troubled as she sat next to Daphne, looking at the direction of Manny - or rather, Manny’s wife.
Her name was Audrey, and she sat in a white and blue sundress with her long black hair falling down her back. Were I not about to ask Sir Clive for Gladys’ hand, I may have been taken, even smitten by her, but there was something in her eyes that reminded me of some other female acquaintances in my past - the desire to mould.
At any rate, when the party broke up I straightened my tie, smiled at Gladys and said “Sir Clive, I wonder if I can take a moment of your time?”
“Hmmm,” Sir Clive said as he turned from Mr Willoughby. “Of course, Bartholomew, come into my study with me.” He showed me into his oak panelled place of power, and then turned after he had closed the door.
I must have looked a strange sight, as he clapped me on the shoulder and said “I’ll spare you the pain and agony young man - I am more than happy for you to make an honest woman of Gladys. I think you will make a fine couple.”
Well, that was a lot easier that I had anticipated, and I was about to thank him profusely when there was a knock on the door, and Jayes glided in. “Forgive the interruption, Sir Clive,” he said quietly, “but Miss Gladys was asking if Mister Rhymaes could join her in the rose garden.”
“Of course, my man,” Sir Clive said, but as we turned he said “Bartholomew?”
“Yes, Sir Clive?”
“I wonder if I could have a word with you after dinner - you may be able to assist me in a business dealing.”
I arched an eyebrow at Jayes, discretely of course, and said “Naturally” before we left. “Jayes,” I said as we walked down the corridor, “I fear dark clouds are on the horizon.”
“Indeed Sir? I had the distinct impression Sir Clive was more than delighted to offer his congratulations to you and Miss Pugh.”
“Not that - Manny has asked me to pop down to his curate next week and do a small favour for him. And said curacy is in Somerfield!”
“Indeed Sir,” Jayes said without skipping a beat, “Mrs Arbuthnot’s butler has told me of her views on the Reverend Manson. She finds him rather liberal and unwilling to enforce good Christian discipline.”
“That is as may be, Jayes, but you know what will happen if I come into Aunt Agnes’ orbit?”
“I am aware of her views on your future, Sir, but once you inform her of your engagement to Miss Pugh - ah, good afternoon Miss.”
I realised we had reached the Rose Garden, and there was the love of my life - sitting and sobbing in her handkerchief.
“Gladys? Whatever is the matter?”
“OH Barty - it’s that beastly Audrey, I had forgotten what she could be like.”
“Audrey? Manny’s wife? Where do you know her from?”
Gladys looked at me, her eyes red as she said “We were in the same form at St Blazius. She was the Flashman to my Tom Brown - a true and horrid bully, and no respect for me.”
I nodded, and then said “but come, my sweet - she is married to a clergyman, and she...”
“Is as bad as before - she approached me this morning and said in plain terms that she knew what I did to pay my bills, and if I did not do something for her she would spill the beans.”
“Really - that is too much,” I said as I looked at Jayes. “I should bally well talk to her and Manny!”
“NO, Barty,” Gladys shouted out, and then looked round. “She also threatened to drag Daphne into this if I did not do as she asked.”
Well, I didn’t need to look round to feel Jayes getting concerned. “If I may enquire, Miss,” he said quietly, “has Mrs Manson stated what she wants you to do?”
“Not yet - she just wants me to go to Somerfield next week...”
“There, there, old fruit,” I said as I held her, “whatever it is, you can rely on Jayes and I to assist. Isn’t that right Jayes?”
“You may depend on our complete cooperation, Miss Pugh,” Jayes said, but this was not his usual calm manner - I could detect the mother hen rising in him.
“There now - let us walk back. Your father has given his blessing, but he wants to see me at dinner tonight before we say anything.”
“Good,” Gladys said as she dried her eyes, “I’m ready to tell everyone now. Let’s head in.” She smiled, kissed my cheek, and then walked back arm in arm with me to the house.
Dinner was a most pleasant affair, with Manny and the Willoughbys offering their congratulations, as did Gladys’ mother. But I could detect a faint undertone of anger, from the Audrey woman, and Sir Clive seemed preoccupied. How preoccupied I found out when I joined him from a brandy and cigar.
“Bartholomew,” he said as we sat down, “What do you think of Mr and Mrs Willoughby?”
“They seem a pleasant enough couple - I believe you do business with the male side of the couple?”
“I do,” Sir Clive said with a sigh, “but I fear I may have to break that relationship soon. He has several lines of business, and I have recently discovered that some of them are not exactly legitimate?”
“You mean they are slightly on the bad side of the equation?”
He nodded, then said “Bartholomew, I am told by Gladys that your man Jayes has a fine capacity for problem solving. Would you object if I consulted with him on a matter concerning the Willoughbys? I assure you, it does not and need not concern the ladies, but I would be grateful.”
“Consult away, Sir Clive,” I said as I stood up. “I will instruct him to give you his utmost attention and discretion.”
“Thank you,” he said as he stood up and shook my hand. “I will feel much better for it. Now, let’s join the others.”
The rest of the weekend passed pleasantly, and I soon returned to the flat with Jayes, enjoying the comfort of a late Monday morning awakening. At least, that was the plan, until I woke that morning to see Jayes standing there, the cup of restorative tea in hand.
“Forgive the early awakening, sir,” he said as he placed the cup on the bedside table, “but Mrs Arbuthnot is waiting in the lounge for you.”
“Aunt Agnes? Here?” I sat up, looking for my usual escape route, but then realised it was a lost cause. “Oh well, it had to happen eventually,” I said as Jayes held the dressing gown in readiness, “Lead on.”
As I came into the room, I saw the Dreaded Relic standing there, complete with large black hat. “Ah, Bartholomew,” she said as she saw me come in, “What time of day do you call this?”
“I had rather a late night last night, Aged rel,” I said as I sat down, and she did likewise. “So what can I do for you?”
“I understand from the Reverend Manson that you will be visiting him this weekend?”
“That’s right - he wants my help with something, but he didn’t say what.”
“I can tell you - it is the Village Fete this Sunday, and he wishes you to judge the...” I could see her shudder as she steeled herself, her robe rustling, “the Loving Wife contest.”
“No,” I said as I looked at Jayes, “Not the - what is the Loving Wife contest, anyway?”
“It is a contest for the young married women of the village, sir. Their husbands help them to be presented in a way that shows their marital devotion, and the winner receives a small stipend as well as the title.”
“Quite right, my man,” Aunt Agnes said as she looked at Jayes. “At any rate, I suspect he wants you to judge, and to award the prize to his wife.”
“Well, I don’t know - there could be...”
“I do not wish for this to happen,” Aunt Agnes said in the voice that commanded a troop of Zulu warriors. “You will attend, and you will not do as he asks.”
“But why, Aunt...”
“And you will join us at the house on Saturday for lunch - I have a number of houseguests staying that I wish you to meet. A charming family, they are...”
“Sir Clive and Lady Delores Pugh and their daughters?”
Aunt Agnes looked at Jayes, and said “Quite correct, young man. How did you know?”
I was wondering the same thing, but at the same time I knew I had to put my foot down. “Aunt Agnes, I have to insist...”
“It’s settled then - I will see you on Saturday.” She stood up and marched to the door, Jayes showing her out and then returning.
“Forgive me Sir - Sir Clive informed me of this when he consulted with me yesterday on a private matter. I believe you gave your agreement?”
“Yes - yes I did but hang it all, Jayes, to spend Saturday with Aunt Agnes...”
“I appreciate the pain, sir, but I believe the results will be most fruitful. If you will excuse me, I will run your bath for you.”
“Very well, and Jayes?”
“Pack for a possible visit this weekend even if only to keep Aunt Agnes out of my hair.”
He smiled and said “I had already anticipated the possibility sir - if you will excuse me?”
Saturday morning found Jayes and I heading through the village of Somerfield. As we passed the church, I saw Manny walking out of the door, his bible in hand, so I stopped and tooted the horn.
“Ah Barty,” he said as he walked over, “Thank you for coming. I cannot thank you enough for agreeing to help out.”
“Jayes has told all of the Loving Wife contest, Manny. I shall be impartial and fair.”
“But I don’t want you to be - I want Audrey to win.” I looked at my old friend, then said “Hang on, old fruit - there is a small matter of a fair and honest contest...”
“And there is the small matter of my being able to live in peace and harmony,” Manny said quietly. “Barty, old pal, old bean, I beg of you...”
We both turned our heads to see Audrey standing there, in a grey jacket and skirt, a stern expression on her face.
“I have been waiting for you, Clive - we are due at Somerfield Manor.”
“As am I - I will see you there presently, Manny. Drive on Jayes.” As we moved off, I looked back at Clive, his head bowed, and said “My goodness - I did not think he would be so much....”
“I believe the idiom you are looking for is ‘under her thumb,’ Sir,” Jayes said as we turned into the grounds of the manor house. “I also believe the Willoughbys are currently resident at the priory.” As we came to a stop, Goldsmith, Aunt Agnes’ long suffering butler, came out and opened the door for me.
“Good morning, Sir,” he said quietly. “Miss Gladys Pugh is desirous of seeing you in the drawing room before luncheon is served, and Sir Clive wishes to see you, Mister Jayes?”
“Thank you Goldsmith,” I said as we entered the house, Jayes heading one way while I went into the drawing room, thereto find Gladys and Daphne. Gladys was wearing a diaphanous white silk gown, with a short dress and black trim, while Daphne looked up over her glasses at me as she sat on a recliner, wearing a grey round necked dress with a thin belt.
“I hear Daddy said yes,” Daphne said as I stood by the fireplace. “Have you told your aunt yet?”
“Aunt Agnes? No - I’ll do that this weekend. Aunt Deborah knows, and is full of approval and kindness towards us.”
“Good,” Gladys said as she kissed me on the cheek. “Tell me, did you come prepared for any eventuality this weekend?”
“I did, old fruit - why?”
“Because I want you to help me get revenge on Audrey Manson - we’re going to pay her a visit and give her the fright of her life.”
“And how do you propose to do that? She is a curate’s wife after all.”
“She’s stinking rich, and has loads of jewellery,” Daphne said from behind her book. “And besides - she threatened me. I don’t like being threatened - it makes me angry.”
“And I don’t like it when my sister gets angry,” Gladys said. “So, can you help me out tonight with a little home visit.”
“Oh, I might be persuaded,” I said with a smile, “but should we not consult first?”
“Forgive me, Sir...”
“Jayes,” I said as I turned suddenly, “I need to tie a cow bell round you to warn me if you are here!”
“My apologies Sir, but I could not help but overhear Miss Gladys. If I might suggest...”
“Jayes, please - this is a matter of the heart, not the mind. I shall assist Miss Gladys in any way she so desires.”
“Indeed, Sir - I merely wish to point out that there may be more than one set of circumstances to consider. I regret that it is not possible for me to divulge too many details, but...”
“Jayes,” I said in my stiffest manner, “I have spoken.”
“Very good, sir,” Jayes said as he stepped back. “Now, Gladys, what do you have planned?”
“If you will excuse me sir,” Jayes said as he moved silently out, Daphne following him as Gladys said “I suggest we meet at eleven tonight...”
As the luncheon gong sounded, I accompanied Gladys into the room, and joined the party as we sat around the table. The meal was passable enough – not up to the standards of the wizard Aunt Deborah employs, but close enough.
As the tea was poured and served, I screwed up my courage and said “Aunt Agnes, I have some news to impart to you.”
“Oh,” she said as she looked at me through her glasses, “Have you finally decided to get a proper living rather than acting the idiot you obviously are?”
“Not as such,” I said as Jayes handed me my cup, “but I have decided to take your advice on something else.”
“Really,” Aunt Agnes said as she looked at me, “and what would that be?”
“I have decided to enter the state of matrimonial bliss with Gladys.”
I had to stop myself from laughing as Aunt Agnes looked at me, her cup raised in the air. “If you will allow me,” Jayes said as he gently took the cup from her hand and laid it on the saucer. She turned and looked at Gladys, and then at Sir Clive before saying “He has asked you of course?”
“Of course, and we have given our blessing,” he said before Aunt Agnes looked at me and did something she had never done before in my presence.
She smiled, and said “Well, I wish you both every happiness, Bartholomew. I think she will mould you as well as any other lady I know.”
“Thank you,” Gladys said as she put her hand on mine.
The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough, as I took Gladys for a walk round the village, Daphne worked on some project, and then we gathered again for dinner. It was about ten when I repaired to my room, and said “Jayes, lay out my visiting clothes.”
“Sir,” he said quietly, “I must once again advise that there are things I need to inform you...”
“Jayes,” I said quietly, “this is a matter for myself and Gladys. You need play no part in it. Now lay out suitable clothing for a nocturnal visit, and I will meet Gladys outside.”
“Very good, sir,” he said as he opened the wardrobe, and laid out the black jumper and trousers. Come eleven, I was waiting in the outside porch, as Gladys came up and joined me in her black jumper and trousers.
“Let’s go,” she said as we headed across the lawn, down a forest path and into the garden of the priory. It was dark, as I gently opened the back door, and we pulled the black masks over our eyes, the woollen hats covering our hair.
“This way,” Gladys whispered as she led me to the stairs – her night vision is much better than mine – and we climbed to the bedrooms. Listening at the door, she opened it a crack as we looked in.
Manny was snoring his head off in one bed, while Audrey lay on her side, in a white nightgown. Gladys smiled as she walked up to her, a white scarf she had found downstairs wound round her gloved hands.
Audrey woke suddenly as I hand gagged her, but Gladys was too fast, as she tied the scar around her eyes and then grabbed her wrists, tying them together with some rope and then securing them to the bed post. Picking up a handkerchief and the belt from her dressing gown, she quickly gagged Audrey as I said “Stop struggling, and lie still – we’re not going to hurt you” in my gentlemen’s best deep threatening voice. Audrey stopped twisting round, as I bound her ankles with rope and secured them to the foot of the bed, while Gladys rifled through the jewellery boxes and pocketed a number of items.
We got out as quickly as we came in, and crept out, making out way back to the manor house. As we slipped in, Gladys kissed me, and we returned to our rooms – only as I passed that of Aunt Agnes, I heard some muffled calls.
Curious, I returned to my room, and slipped into my pyjamas and dressing gown, before walking back and knocking on the door.
“SMMNNHHLLP” I heard my aged rel call out, so I went in – and was shocked to see Aunt Agnes lying on her side on the bed, wrist and ankles bound with strips of sheet, and a wide strip tied around her head.
“What happened,” I said as I removed the gag.
“I was robbed, Barty,” she said when she could speak, “and by a woman as well. Quick – raise the alarm!”
Breakfast the next morning was a sobering affair, with Aunt Agnes still in shock. As soon as I could, I slipped out and motioned for Jayes to follow me.
“Rum business Jayes – Aunt Agnes being robbed as we visited the priory.”
Jayes said nothing, which was a clue he really knew something I needed to. “Come on, Jayes,” I said as I slipped on the jacket he was holding, “Spill it.”
“It is not my place, Sir, but I fear you may have made a miscalculation regarding Mrs Manson.”
“In what way?”
“Because her father is Detective Chief Inspector Claude Potsworth of the Metropolitan Police.”
Now that brought me up short. “You mean the head of the Criminal Investigation Department? Why didn’t you tell me, Jayes?”
“I tried to, sir, but if you recall you were in a hurry to assist Miss Gladys...”
“Oh my,” I suddenly said, “we need to...”
“No time sir, you need to attend the morning service and then join the invited guests at the fete. If you will allow me, I will inform Miss Daphne, and she will inform Miss Gladys.”
The English Summer Fete can be a pleasant enough experience, if the right inducements can be put in place. A nice little book being run on the side, for example, always helps to pass the time. But on this occasion, there was a deep depression hanging over me, and as I made my way to the stage set up on the village green that depression only got deeper.
What I needed was a good stiff drink. What I got was a cup of lukewarm tea as the good ladies of the parish lined up and paraded in front of me for the Loving Wife judging. Now to be fair, I was impressed at the ruddy good looks of the local sisterhood.
One thing was bothering me however – one Audrey Manson was not one of the party. It was only then that I realised that Manny had not helped in the service that day.
Well, if nothing else, it meant Aunt Agnes was happy, as I named the baker’s wife the winner, and then hot tailed it to find Jayes. He was in conversation with Sir Clive as I approached, just in time to say “Leave it in my hands, Sir Clive” before he turned and looked at me.
“Jayes, the esteemed Audrey Manson was scratched from the card in the Loving Wife race.”
“So I am led to believe, Sir. Apparently the Reverend Manson woke this morning to find her bed empty, save for a note demanding a ransom for her safe return. Forgive me for saying so, Sir, but I did wonder if you and Miss Gladys...”
“No we bally well have not,” I said as I looked round, “we left her secured, gagged, blindfolded, but most definitely on the bed. What could have happened?”
“If I may make a suggestion, Sir,” Jayes whispered, “I would ask you and Miss Gladys to meet me and Miss Daphne at...”
“There you are, Rhymaes.”
I turned to see Mister Willoughby and his wife approaching, he in country tweed and his wife in a knee length yellow dress. I sensed rather than heard that Jayes had slipped off, as I said “Hello hello – enjoying yourselves?”
“Oh yes,” Mrs Willoughby said, “a most pleasant afternoon. Such a pity Audrey was taken ill and was unable to attend.”
I did my best to hide my thoughts, as I said “Yes indeed – I hope she is not too unwell?”
“No no – just a slight head cold,” Mrs Willoughby said. “We were wondering if you and Mrs Arbuthnot would call on the priory later? We would love to entertain you there.”
“I will ask her on your behalf,” I said with a light tone, “but you must excuse me – I need to find my fiancé and ensure she is fed and watered.”
I made my way hurriedly to the tea tent, where Gladys and Daphne were sitting. Both were wearing linen knee length skirts and matching jackets, Gladys a cream one and Daphne a white one. The white blouses under the jacket completed the outfits with their shoes. “Good, you’re both here,” I whispered as I sat down, “Jayes wishes to meet with us. Audrey has...”
“...been kidnapped. Daphne told me.”
“She did? Who told you?”
“Nobody,” Daphne said as she looked at me through her glasses. “Jayes did try to warn you yesterday...”
“What – that her father is the lead detective in London?”
“That – and something else. Come on – we’ll congregate at the manor house.”
“I fear, Sir, that you and Miss Gladys may be in very imminent danger.”
We looked at Jayes as he stood in front of us, Daphne by his side.
“To do so, Sir, I need to take you into my confidence regarding Sir Clive. He has intimated to you he has business dealings with Mr Willoughby?”
“He said something about it, and that he felt he may need to terminate their agreement, whatever that was.”
Jayes shook his head, and then said “Mister Willoughby is in the import/export business, and Sir Clive has discovered that some of his imports and exports may not be exactly within the letter of the law.”
“Simple language, Jayes, please,” I said as I rubbed my head.
“Willoughby is a drug dealer.”
Gladys and I both looked at Daphne. “How do you know,” I asked, but she just looked at Jayes. “I can say things he cannot,” she said with the sweetest of smiles.
“Hang on – last night, it wasn’t you that...”
“No, I did not steal from Mrs Arbuthnot what Audrey wanted stolen from her,” Daphne said. “But I know who did – and I think it is time we worked together to sort this mess out.”
“What do you suggest, then?”
That was when I heard the soft cough, and all three of us looked to Jayes. “If you will be guided by me, sir, our first move is to consult with Mrs Arbuthnot.”
The chorus of “WHAT!!!” from all three of us caused him to smile, as he said “I know it will be painful, sir, but it is necessary...”
“Mister Rhymaes, Miss Pugh – how good of you to call round.”
Mister Willoughby opened the door to the priory and let us in, showing us to the front room where Manny was sitting with his head in his hands.
“Have you heard?” he said as he looked at us.
“We have old bean,” I said as Gladys sat down and put her arm around him. “Don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll turn up.”
“But they want a thousand pounds – I don’t even have ten! Where does a country Curate get that sort of money?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Gladys said as she looked at me, “I’m sure something can be worked out.”
“Perhaps you would care to help Mrs Willoughby and I in the kitchen, Mister Rhymaes,” my host said as he took my arm and guided me to the kitchen, where Mrs Willoughby was making a pot of tea. “Ah Mister Rhymaes,” she said as I came in, “How is your aunt?”
“Recovering,” I said as I sat down, “no thanks to you, I might add.”
“Oh,” she said as she smiled at me, “and why would I have anything to do with it?”
“To do with what?”
She put the pot down, and looked at me, before saying “you’re not quite as stupid as you look, are you?”
“And you’re not quite as innocent as you look.” Mrs Willoughby smiled again as she poured the tea, before saying “It really was most decent of you to arrange for Audrey to be unable to stop us removing her from the bed.”
“Ah, so it was you,” I said as I sipped my tea, “May I ask why?”
“Because I discovered their plan.”
I looked up to see Manny at the door, his hand on Gladys’ arm as she stared to me over the cloth covering her mouth. “I’m sorry, Barty,” he said as he pushed my love forward, and I saw he had tied her wrists, “but if I don’t do as they say, they’re going to kill Audrey.”
“It’s all right, Manny,” I said as he helped Gladys to sit down, and the damned Willoughby tied her body to the chair back, “I know you couldn’t help it. Where is Audrey anyway?”
“Still in her bed – I don’t know if she will ever forgive me.”
“Look,” I said as I turned to Mister Willoughby, “I don’t know what your game is, but you won’t win by threatening me.”
“I’m not threatening you,” Mister Willoughby laughed, “I’m threatening Sir Clive.”
“So why rob my aunt?”
“She upset me,” Mrs Willoughby said as she sipped her tea. Well, I could see how that would happen, but that was not helping Gladys or me.
“Now, unless you want to be a widower before you are even married, I suggest...”
The soft cough took them all by surprise, as in his usual impeccable manner Jayes announced his presence.
“Begging your pardon, Sir,” he said as he looked at me, “but I felt it necessary to inform you that Mrs Arbuthnot has been delayed.”
“A pity, Jayes,” I said as I sat down, “but as you can see we have enough problems for the moment.”
“As I can see, Sir,” he said as he nodded to Gladys. “If you will forgive me, Sir, I think I can propose a solution to the current predicament.”
“Oh – and what would that be, my man,” Willoughby said as he looked at Jayes.
“Indeed Sir – I suggest you and your wife surrender yourselves to me, before the authorities take control of this situation.”
“Oh – what, our tame curate here or the local village plod?”
Jayes smiled – always a dangerous sign – as he said “No Sir, I refer to Detective Chief Inspector Potsworth of Her Majesty’s Metropolitan Constabulary.”
“Potsworth? What the hell would he be doing down here?”
“Looking for his daughter,” the deep voice said as the said DCI Potsworth entered, accompanied by two local policemen. “I’m arresting you for conspiracy to kidnap, and supply of illegal substances,” he said as they grabbed Mister and Mrs Willoughby, and marched them out of the room.
“Release my daughter, Clive,” Potsworth said as he shook Jayes’ hand. “Good work my man – I heard enough to get a warrant to examine their accounts, and....”
“Daddy arrest this woman!”
Gladys looked at Audrey as she came in, still in her nightgown, and said “hgrrt” through her gag.
“Hold on old fruit,” I said as I looked at Audrey, “that is my betrothed you are talking to.”
“I don’t care, daddy – she tied me up in my bed last night and stole my jewellery! I recognised her perfume!!”
“Audrey, darling, that is enough evidence to arrest someone on,” the honest policeman said, but it was obvious his daughter was having none of it.
“I tell you it was her – she’s one of the most notorious thieves in London, and she...”
“Was with me all last night.”
We all turned as Aunt Agnes came in. “We sat together until late last night, laying the plans for the upcoming wedding,” she said as she came in. “Bartholomew, for goodness sake let Gladys speak.”
I stared at her, as if in a trance, before Jayes said “Allow me Sir” and untied the scarf from around her mouth. “Thank you, Jayes,” she said as he started to untie her. “Miss Arbuthnot is telling the truth, Audrey – we sat up until after midnight, talking about possible guests.”
Audrey stared at her, then at her father, before she said “but...”
“I wear a common perfume, Audrey – anyone could have kidnapped you last night. In fact, I bet it was that Willoughby woman, trying to shift the blame from herself.”
“Audrey, my love,” Manny said as he looked at his wife, “it could not have been Gladys. You must have been mistaken.”
“You jump to conclusions too quickly, my girl,” her father said as she sat down.
“Now if you will forgive me, Claude, my nephew and his wife to be need to return to London.” We stood up and walked out, in a daze as to what happened.
“I knew Mrs Arbuthnot and DCI Potsworth were old friends, and a call from her to say his daughter was in danger would bring him to the village,” Jayes said as I drained the glass, and he replenished it. “From there, it was a simple matter to arrange things so that he would hear everything.”
“And you could not have told me that before the whole mess began?”
“I did try to, Sir,” Jayes said as he handed me the paper. The story of the arrest of the Willoughbys, and the investigation into his dealings, was on the front.
“And Sir Clive?”
“Will be kept out of the story, Sir – There is no reason for them to be involved.”
“Smooth work Jayes, smooth work,” I said as I drained the W&S again. “So, what awaits us this glorious day?”
“I shall enquire directly after luncheon, Sir,” Jayes said with a bow as he walked to the kitchen. Life, as they say, was full of roses now.
I should have seen the storm clouds coming, as I put the paper down, the article on that Hitler chap uppermost.