Jayes and the Jade Leprechaun
It is a matter of history that there have been two, maybe three women who have managed to do the next to impossible and fully attract the attention of the stout yeoman I know as Jayes. And I do not mean in a professional sense, such as with my darling Gladys or my good American friends Mrs Rockwell and Doctor Huntingdown. No, I mean in the sense of what I used, as a younger man, to do twice a day and three times on Sunday – fall in love.
One such was my darling sister in law, until her heart was stolen by a soldier and Jayes gallantly stood to one side. But the one that comes to mind now would involve the red headed colleen Agnetha Butler, Viscountess Kildurran, a house party in Dublin, an old acquaintance – and the foiling of a dastardly plot.
Oh – and a fund raising trip of our own…
But dash it, I’m getting ahead of myself again, aren’t I? Let’s go back to the beginning…
I remember it was the end of February in 1937 – it had been two years since Gladys Pugh had become the Honourable Gladys Rhymaes, and had moved into our little flat. Jayes had agreed to stay on as our man about the house, and assistant in many other ways, and life had settled into a combination of domestic bliss, interrupted by the occasional storm.
And it was the arrival of the first telegram that morning that heralded the start of this tale. Gladys and I had just finished breakfast, when Jayes coughed softly and said “A telegram, sir – from Mrs Arbuthnot.”
Gladys must have seen the colour run from my face, as she said “oh come on Barty – surely Aunt Agnes cannot scare you anymore?”
“Let me say one thing, Gladys my love,” I whispered as I reached for the small envelope with trembling hands, “York.”
“Ah – fair point,” she said as she put the cup down, and we both exchanged significant glances with Jayes. He remained silent, as I opened the missive and read it carefully.
“Damn it all, she’s coming to lunch Jayes – lay in suitable food for a vulture.”
“Oh dear – and I have my Ladies Circle luncheon with Aunt Deborah.” Gladys patted her lips, smiled and stood up, saying “you can tell me all about it later” as she left the table.
“Jayes,” I said quietly, “the storm approaches. Prepare for a rocky ride…”
“Very good Sir. I shall prepare a suitable luncheon for two…”
“I do not understand why you kept that man on,” Aunt Agnes said as she looked at me, looking for all the world like a raven at the Tower.
“Because I like him, and Gladys likes him,” I said before I took a sip of the cold consommé, “and he does cook exceedingly well.”
I had the joy of the rare sight of Aunt Agnes nodding, as she said “true – well, I wanted to meet you today because I want you to do me a small favour, Bartholomew.”
“And that is, dearest aunt,” I said as Jayes cleared the soup bowls, returning with the lamb cutlets and served the vegetables.
“I have placed an order for a statuette in Jade, and it needs to be collected from the dealer in Dublin. I wish you to go and fetch it.”
“You want me to an errand boy, Aunt Agnes? Surely you know I have many demands on my time…”
“Not that many Bartholomew,” Aunt Agnes said as she fixed me with a stare, and I melted in the fire before Jayes coughed.
“What Mister Rhymaes meant to say, Madame, is he would be delighted to fetch this item for you. We received an invite to a house party in Dublin next week, and he was going to reply in the affirmative. We can collect the statuette then.”
“We have,” I said as I looked at Jayes, but his simple comment seemed to calm the aged rel as she said “good – I will send the details tomorrow.”
When she left, I looked at Jayes and said “rather convenient, Jayes. Where is this house party?”
“At the Dublin home of the Duke and Duchess of Lardarn,” Jayes said with a smile.
“Paddy and Shelagh? How fortunate,” I said with a smile. His Grace Patrick, Duke of Lardarn, had been at prep with me, as little Paddy Gaunt, and he had married the actress Shelagh O’Connor a year before. “And who else will be in this party?”
Before he could answer, he went to the door and opened it as Gladys came in. “How do you do that Jayes,” she said with a smile as she removed her hand and gloves.
“It is a gift Madame. I was informing Mister Rhymaes we have an invitation to visit Gaunt House in Dublin, at which point he is expected by Mrs Arbuthnot to collect a jade statuette.”
“The Jade Leprechaun?”
Jayes raised an eyebrow as he said quietly “so that is the object of interest? I see. Sir, Madame, there are possibilities here.”
“We can talk of that later – Aunt Agnes has put in a bid for it? She is not the only one. Agnetha was at the lunch as well.”
The way Jayes talked had made both me and Gladys look at him. “Jayes,” she finally said, “I know Daphne is with Giles, but has another woman caught your eye?”
“Forgive me,” he said and I swear I saw him blush. “I meant to inform you there will be another guest there – the Baron Albrecht von Buchenwald.”
“A German? Is he one of these blackshirt types?”
“I could not say, Sir,” Jayes said quietly, “but he is a prominent industrialist. Perhaps your father knows of him, Madame?”
“I can ask – so when do we go there?”
“Two weeks’ time, Madame – in time for the St Partrick’s Day events…”
So it was, on the Ides of March, that we found ourselves bowling along the roads of Ireland, having taken the ferry over the previous night. Jayes was driving, with me and Gladys in the back, both of us wearing driving coats and Jaye sin his black jacket and trousers.
As we entered the city of Dublin, we both admired the architecture, before we pulled up in front of an imposing brown stone building by the banks of the Liffey. As Jayes got out, the door opened and an imposing gentlemen came down, obviously their butler, but with a neatly trimmed black beard.
“Welcome to Gaunt House,” he said as all three of us looked at him. “I am Doyle, the butler. If you would care to follow me, there are refreshments available inside, and the staff will fetch the luggage.”
“With your permission,” Jayes said as he inclined his head, “I will ensure the luggage is placed and unpacked. Perhaps I can ask for some tea after that, Mister Doyle.”
The butler inclined his head as he indicated Gladys and I should follow him, not quite believing the fact we knew who this was…
“If you will wait in here,” Doyle said as he indicated a sitting room, “I will inform the duke and Duchess you are here.” He closed the door, Gladys looking at me as she said “Barty, is that…”
“I think it is,” I said quietly as the door opened, and Paddy and Shelagh came in. I noted he was, like me, wearing a light suit with the shirt and tie, but while Gladys was in a grey jacket and dress, Shelagh was wearing a cream slip dress with a set of pearls round her neck.
“Barty old boy,” Paddy said as we shook hands, “you look good – and you look radiant Gladys. Thanks for coming – ah thank you Doyle.”
“Sir,” the butler said as he allowed a maid to bring in some tea, and then left.
“Where did you find him,” Gladys asked as Shelagh poured.
“He was recommended by the agency,” Paddy said, “and he is worth his salt.”
As he spoke, the door opened and a tall, thin, elegant looking woman came in. She was wearing a blue dress with short sleeves, a patterned scarf tied over her shoulder, but she smiled as she said “Gladys – you made it!”
“I did indeed – Barty, let me introduce you to Agnetha, Viscountess Kildurran. Aggie, my husband Barty.” I looked at the redhead, who reminded me of Rita Heyworth in her manner and stance, her poise and manners.
“A pleasure,” she said as she shook my hand, her smile dazzling me – and then I heard a soft cough and saw Jayes had joined us.
“Jayes – the luggage is sorted?”
“Indeed, Sir,” he said quietly, but as he looked at Agnetha I swore the corner of his mouth twitched as well. “I will go and lay out the clothes for later, unless you need me for anything else?”
“Well, this promises to be an interesting evening,” Gladys said as she came into the room, wearing a grey evening dress with long gloves as I was tying the bow tie, Jayes standing to the side. “So come on Jayes – is it him?”
“It is indeed, Sir, Madame,” Jayes said with an inclination of his head, “it would appear Black Jack Richmond made his way to Dublin, and re-invented himself. We have spoken privately, and I was able to tell him some of the news concerning his niece and her recent marriage. He was grateful for the glad tidings.”
“Well, well, I am glad he found some peace,” Gladys said with a smile. “So the whole party is here?”
“They are indeed,” Jayes said as we heard the gong, “shall we?”
As we entered the dining room, Agnetha was standing with a smaller gentleman, with obvious military bearing, wearing a black dinner jacket and pants. As we came in, he stood to attention, clipped his heels and bowed as he said “ah, Mister and Mrs Rhymaes I presume? Baron Albrecht von Buchenwald, at your service.”
“A pleasure,” I said as I bowed and he kissed Gladys on the hand. “So what brings you to Ireland?”
“Oh a matter of business – I am interested in a statuette that is on the market, and the Viscountess was kind enough to ask me to accompany her. Shall we take our seats?”
As we sat down, Paddy and Shelagh were more than amenable hosts, and the meal passed passably well – until the ladies stood and left us to the port and cigars. As the door closed, the Baron smiled and said “a most amenable place, this city. Tell me, what do you hear of our country here?”
Paddy shook his head as he said “not very good things, if truth be told Albrecht. Your leader, Chancellor Hitler, strikes me as a man with some rather – disagreeable views.”
I could see the German nobleman raise an eyebrow, before he smiled and said “well, can I tell you a secret? It is on behalf of the Chancellor I am truly here. He wishes to talk with some politicians here - and he wants the jade statuette.”
“Oh – and why is that old bean,” I said with a flippant attitude.
“He desires objects with a – spiritual basis,” Albrecht said, “and the legends of that statuette have reached his ears.”
“What – the fairy tale that it was made by leprechauns,” Paddy said with a laugh. “It’s just that – a fairy story!”
“Perhaps, perhaps not,” he said quietly, “but I am charged – well, ordered to obtain it…”
“That is most disturbing news, sir,” Jayes said as he stood in the room as Gladys and I looked at him. “I had heard rumours of the interests of Chancellor Hitler, but only rumours.”
“I have to say, Shelagh does not like him,” Gladys said, “but Agnetha seems to tolerate him.”
“Well, Agnetha strikes me as a strange woman,” I said as I finished the W’n’S, and then I saw the look in Jayes’ eye. One I had seen in myself so often.
“Oh no – don’t tell me…”
“Sorry Sir,” Jayes said as he shook his head, “but I think we need to take steps to ensure the Baron does not obtain the statuette. My concern, however, is however it is obtained, it cannot be forwarded to Mrs Arbuthnot as planned.”
“WHAT! Jayes, you know what happens if Aunt Agatha thinks I have ruined her plans…”
“I appreciate the difficulty sir,” Jayes said quietly, “but consider. You and Mrs Rhymaes know the reports that have come from Germany – does it strike you that the Baron would stop at anything to obtain it?”
Gladys and I looked at each other – we had indeed heard the stories, and a recent dinner with our friend Annie Xavier had led to the beginnings of further planning for what we knew was inevitable. The wisdom of Jayes’ comment hit home, as I said “so it has to be hidden – where is it now?”
“It is to be brought to the house tomorrow prior to the auction – Mister Doyle was kind enough to inform us of the fact – and the auction is in two days’ time. I think, Sir, we need to stage a robbery and take it under cover of that.”
“Rob Paddy and Shelagh? Jayes, you know we have rules…”
“I understand, Sir, but I truly believe there is no other way.”
“He’s right,” Gladys said quietly, “we can discuss in the morning…”
As we walked round the parks, me wearing a brown overcoat and a trilby and Gladys in a green coat with a wide fur collar and fur lined gloves, she said “so we know that we are going for a meal and the theatre tonight, while Doyle and the servants stay guard – our window of opportunity is going to come in the night.”
I nodded in agreement, as I said “I regret that we need to secure Paddy and Shelagh, but we need to in order to make this work. We can only hope Jayes and I can pull this off successfully?”
“While I remain undisturbed,” Gladys said as we approached the entrance to the house and walked in – only to see as we went into the front room Doyle standing over a small green statuette. It was obviously made of jade, and took the form of a small bearded man sitting on a stool.
“A beauty to behold, isn’t it?”
I turned to see Agnetha looking carefully at it, and said “I suppose it is, but not my artistic cup of tea. Still, my Aunt likes the look of it?”
“Agnes Arbuthnot? My mother knew her – how is the old woman?”
“My aunt, an old woman?” I raised an eyebrow at Agnetha, before there was a soft cough behind us.
“Forgive me, Viscountess,” Jayes said quietly, “a telephone call for you, apparently it is your mother calling?”
“Ah – well then, if Mater is calling,” Agnetha said with her light laugh as she walked off, both Jayes and I looking at the way her green silk gown moved with each step.
“Jayes, if I was a single man…”
“Quite Sir – his Lordship has asked if you will visit him in the library, to discuss the old days.”
I nodded as I walked off, wondering what Jayes and Doyle would have to say to each other…
“Well, that was a magnificent show,” Shelagh said as she took her cape off as we returned that night, “but I am ready for my bed. Is everything secured, Doyle?”
“It is, your ladyship,” the butler said, “If you will excuse me, I will ensure the outer doors are closed and locked. One can never be too careful.”
“Well,” I said as I stretched and yawned, “time for bed I think. Coming Gladys?”
“No – I think I’m going to sit up for a while with Agnetha and Baron Buchenwald. I will join you later,” Gladys said as she kissed me on the cheek, and went into the drawing room while I headed up to the bedroom. Slipping off the jacket and loosening the bow tie, I waited until there was a soft knock at the door, and Jayes slipped in.
“Your nightcap, sir,” he said as he held the reviver on a silver platter, “and I have laid out suitable raiment for our night-time activities.”
“Gladys is talking downstairs – should we wait until she comes up?”
“It may be prudent sir, but time will be of the essence, so I shall return at midnight with a report.”
“Very well then – I will see you then,” I said quietly, Jayes bowing his head before he slipped out.
When midnight came, Gladys had not returned – and although I was now wearing the regulation black clothing, her lack of presence was disturbing me. I was about to leave when I heard the door open, and Jayes slipped in.
“Have you seen Gladys, Jayes?”
“I regret I have not sir - but I did see the light was still on in the drawing room. We should be about our work first, with the Duke and Duchess.”
“Indeed,” I said as I applied the black eye mask, “the rear door?”
“I have already ensured it will be found to have been forced, sir. After you…”
We both slipped out, wearing black jackets over our roll neck sweaters. Jayes was carrying a jemmy, while I had a serviceable pistol in my gloved hand. We crept along the hallway, and slowly opened the door to Paddy and Shelagh’s room.
They were asleep on the bed, Shelagh’s hair held back by a white scarf folded into a band, and Paddy wearing a striking set of heliotrope pyjamas. Jayes and I looked at each other, and then he stood on one side of the bed as I put a leather gloved hand over Shelagh’s mouth.
She opened her eyes wide and looked at me, as I put a finger to my lips, the black hat covering my hair, and pointed to her husband. She reached back and pushed Paddy in the back, and as he opened his eyes he saw the masked man standing there, touching his cap and saying “Evening your lordship – please, do as we say and you and your lovely lady get to be unhurt” in an Irish accent.
“What the…” He turned over and saw me, one gloved hand over Shelagh’s mouth and the other holding a gun over both of them, before he said “all right – what do you want?”
“For now,” Jayes said quietly, “lie face down and put your hands behind your back.” As Paddy did this, Shelagh watched as Jayes took a length of cord and bound his wrists tightly together, then used a second length to secure his ankles.
“Your turn, yer ladyship,” he then said as he looked at Shelagh, “on your front, and not a sound.”
“Who are they, Paddy,” she said quietly as she lay on her stomach, Jayes passing me some cords as I secured her wrists and ankles together.
“I don’t know – just thieves I think, so don’t worry,” Paddy said – and then he grunted as Jayes used one of his wife’s scarves as a cleave gag, the silk going between his teeth.
I then used a second scarf on Shelagh, the two of them turning over and watching as I searched for her jewels, and Jayes stood guard over them. It was a nice haul, even if I felt a small pang of regret – but the real mission was still to begin.
“Thank you, yer graces,” Jayes said as he touched his cap again and we both left the room – Jayes smiling as he said “most satisfactory Sir – but now for the real objective.”
We walked slowly down the staircase, the rest of the house in darkness, but as we passed the drawing room I saw the light was still on. “Jayes,” I whispered, “before we proceed to the room with the safe, we need to check in here first.”
“May I ask why, Sir?”
“Something is wrong,” I said quietly as I opened the door quietly and looked in, before I beckoned. “Attend, Jayes, there is a lady in distress.” He walked over and we both looked at the sight in front of us.
Gladys was looking at us, her eyes wide over the long grey shawl which had been tied tightly over her mouth, as she sat in an old armchair. Her wrists had been tied down to the arms of the chair, and her ankles secured together and pulled to the side before they were secured to the chair leg.
And she was not happy, as she shook her head and beckoned to us to come in. “Well, what have where,” I said as we walked in, Jayes closing the door before I pulled the shawl down from her mouth and said “what happened?”
“What happened? The Baron and the Viscountess happened, lover – we were talking when they suddenly looked at each other, then the next thing I knew I was tied to the chair and gagged.”
“Why would they do that, Madame,” Jayes said quietly.
“Because I left the room for a minute, and came back to hear their plans to steal the Jade Leprechaun,” Gladys said as I untied her, “so you two had better jolly well get a move on, because they must be into the safe by now.”
Jayes nodded as we left them there, and then walked down the corridor, stopping outside the room Paddy used as an office. We could see a light under the door moving round, so I held the gun as Jayes looked in the door.
Agnetha was certainly there, and the door was certainly open to the safe – but she was in no position to do anything, sitting in a chair with her hands taken behind the chair back, rope visible on her arms and body. A white cloth was also sticking out of her mouth, as Albrecht von Buchenwald stood at the safe, the green statuette in his hands.
“The Fuhrer will be most placed to receive this,” he said as he looked at Agnetha, “and there is nothing Military Intelligence can do about this.”
Jayes and I exchanged a look as Agnetha struggled, Albrecht putting the Jade Leprechaun into a black valise – and then he looked to the door.
“Whoever you are in, I have a gun,” he said, “so get in here.” Well, a gentleman cannot refuse an offer like that – so we both walked in, Jayes saying “seems we were too late for the real prize” in his Irish accent.
“So you are robbing the place as well? Plenty still in there for you – I only want this,” he said quietly as he motioned with the Luger, both of us moving to the side as Agnetha watched her, and he stepped into the hallway.
“He’s going to get away with it,” I hissed as the door closed, and then Jayes smiled – and I hated it when he smiled like that, because to meant he knew something I did not.
“My apologies,” he said in his normal voice as he untied Agnetha from the chair, waiting as she removed her scarf before she said “well, this is a fine pickle. I never pegged you two as cat burglars.”
“You know who we are?”
“Obvious as soon as you came in, although I could have done without the Nazi spilling the beans on me,” she said as she stood up. “Gladys mad at me?”
“A little – why did you do it?”
“Because we want the statuette as well,” she said, “but now he has got clean away.”
I heard the soft chuckle, as she looked at Jayes and said “I don’t see what is funny?”
“I apologise, your Ladyship,” Jayes said, “but I anticipate such an eventuality. Your identity is known to me through – contacts, shall we say?”
“Contacts…. Oh lordie, the Agency? You know Annie?”
“We have a passing acquaintance – on which note, if you will follow me?”
We looked at each other and then walked out of the office, down the hallway and to the kitchen – where we saw Albrecht out cold in a chair, and a large, burly, black bearded man standing over him.
“Mister Rhymaes – Jayes – I take it their Graces are safe?”
“If you will allow us sufficient time to return to our rooms, you will find them secured and silenced in their bed on your tour before retiring, sir,” Jayes said quietly.
“You know Doyle?”
“They know me of old – they are the ones who got me out of the States,” Doyle said.
“Oh – when you were Black Jack?”
It was my turn to look stunned, as Agnetha said “we helped establish his identity here – but that means you were there at Curragh. Smooth work, both of you.”
“You are Military Intelligence?”
“For my sins – but keep it quiet, will you? So what are we going to do with this?”
“I fear it has to disappear – will you entrust me and Mister Richmond with the task, Sir?”
“Jayes, I do not think I could trust it to anyone better. Allow me to collect Gladys and retire – you too Agnetha – and then the alarm can be raised…”
“Are you sure you are all right,” Gladys said as she and Agnetha sat with Shelagh in the morning room.
“I was scared, but Doyle soon found us,” she said as she sipped her tea, “but the Baron has just disappeared with the Jade Leprechaun!”
“Well, at least Aunt Agnes cannot blame me for this one,” I said quietly as I sat with Paddy. “I’m amazed we slept through it.”
“Barty, you could sleep through the trumpet on the last day,” Paddy laughed as he stood up, and I saw Jayes standing in the doorway. “Excuse me ladies,” I said as I slipped out, and said quietly “well?”
“With the help of Mister Doyle, we have secreted the statuette in a secure place in the house. Only he and I know where it is, and he will say nothing.”
“I have sent instructions of how to find it to my brother, Sir?”
I turned and stared at him as he said “You have a brother?”
“Indeed Sir – he emigrated to New Zealand a year before I came into your service, and is entirely trustworthy. I am sure the secret will remain safe with him.”
“And the Viscountess? What of her?”
Jayes smiled, and said “I fear sir her standing is much greater than mine – but I do not think we have seen the last of her.”