Jayes Makes an Omelette
“You know, Jayes, it is on days like these that I feel as if there can be nothing in the world that could cause me any troubles.”
“Indeed, Sir,” my reliable right hand said as he was unpacking the necessities of life and placing them in the correct drawers, “as the poet Emma Lyon wrote ‘Now cheerful birds from tree to tree pour forth their native melody, and woo the silence of the grove, with sweet conversing notes of love’.”
I had to agree – all was right in the world for Bartholomew Judas Rhymaes at this time. The delightful Gladys Pugh had consented to be my wife, her parents had given their consent, and even the dreaded Aunt Agnes was happy.
Jayes too was a happy man, although it only showed in the way his eyes glistened just that little bit more. There was, shall we say, an understanding between him and Gladys’ delightful sister Daphne. Now, Jayes had very strict views on the relationship between servant and employer, but we both knew that one day they too would be a couple – and I am not afraid to say I did not look forward to that day.
The wedding had been set for August of this year, three months from now, and I had taken the opportunity to repair to Monte Carlo for a week. Gladys, Daphne and her parents were away in New York at this time, so I figured I would give the tables one last round as a single man.
But – well, you know how it is. The sunniest of days, not a cloud in the sky, and then suddenly the heavens open for no apparent reason and you start to think that the flood is coming.
And this particular deluge started as I dressed for dinner. Despite the cordial arrangements Jayes and I share, there are some things on which we do from time to time disagree – and the soft cough from his direction alerted me to the fact another disagreement was looming large.
“Forgive me sir,” he said in his quiet voice, “but I have reason to believe our luggage has been tampered with.”
“Oh – and what gives you that idea Jayes? Has the false bottom been disturbed?”
“No, sir,” he said quietly, “but this appears to be have been added.” He held up a white dinner jacket, and looked at me.
“It was indeed added, Jayes – I added it after you finished packing this morning. I purchased it in Saville Row yesterday, with the intention of dazzling the bright young things.”
“I feel it may indeed do that Sir,” Jayes said, “but if I may remind you, you are affianced, and as such need to exercise caution in…”
“Jayes, I ask you very kindly to keep your advice on my social circle to yourself. I confidently predict this will be a hit at dinner and at the tables. Lay it out with my best stiff front shirt and bowtie.”
“Very good Sir,” Jayes said, but I could hear the hurt in his voice.
“I know these changes in fashion pain you Jayes,” I said quietly, “so take the rest of the night off. I am sure you will find something to amuse you nearby.”
“Thank you Sir – if you do not need my services tonight, then there is a show I would wish to take in at the local theatre.”
“Then go with my blessing,” I said, “Now, the hot bath and the clothes, if you please.”
I had a most acceptable dinner in the hotel, and then went to the Ritz Casino, money in hand and song on my heart – a feeling that was enhanced by the cheery cry of “Barty! Come here you boiled sausage!”
“Aunt Deborah,” I said as I walked over and kissed her, “you have come to play the tables as well?”
I should say that, of the array of horrors my aunts tend to consist of, Aunt Deborah is the white sheep – huntswoman, writer, and general bon viveur. My favourite woman – after the divine Gladys, of course.
“In a way, young reptile,” Aunt Deborah said. “I need to replenish the cash supply somewhat, after a disastrous Ascot, so I came here for a few days. You?”
“Last fling as a single man, aged rel.”
“Oh – and where is Jayes? Disapprove of the jacket, did he?”
“Jayes needs to move with the times, Aunt,” I said haughtily.
“So he did disapprove – well, see you later,” she said, and off she popped.
Nice, simple, elegant, yes? I really should have been warned, but instead I went in, quit while I was slightly ahead, and returned to my rooms to find Jayes had laid out the sleeping garments, and had a nightcap prepared.
“Did you have a pleasant evening Sir,” he said as he handed me the snifter.
“Very much so, Jayes – I ran into Aunt Deborah.”
“Yes, I had heard that Mrs Trotter was in residence. Her maid was at the theatre as well.”
“Was she now? Did you enjoy the show?”
“It was passable entertaining sir – I feel I should warn you that Miss Magdalene Roberts was also at the theatre.”
That made me sit upright. Those who have followed my chronicles will remember Magdalene – long dark hair, stunning looks, brain like a dry sponge? Well, to hear she was in town was a mild shock, but I relaxed and said ”It does not matter Jayes – I am engaged, and she is smitten by the Masked Marvel. I believe the odds of our paths crossing are slim to nil.”
So naturally, the next morning after I had eaten, and stepped out onto the boulevard to partake of the Mediterranean air, what should I hear but “Barty!”
“Oh hello Magdalene,” I said as I doffed my cap, “I heard you were visiting. I trust you are well?”
“Oh yes,” she said in that voice, so sweet and so annoying, “Father has brought me here as a treat. I saw in the papers you are engaged?”
“I am indeed – wedding this August, all being well.”
“Good – well, I will see you Barty,” she said as she got into a car, and I heard a familiar soft cough behind me.
“Forgive the interruption sir,” Jayes said quietly, “but Mrs Trotter asks if you will meet her in the Café de Nuit at eleven. She wishes to discuss a matter with you.”
“Well, that sounds like a meeting of minds much to be desired,” I said as I adjusted my hat, “Send word I shall meet her there, Jayes my man.”
Come the appointed hour, and I entered the establishment to find Aunt Deborah sitting at a table near the back, somewhat listless in spirits to judge by her flat rendition of “oh hello Barty.”
“My my aged rel,” I said as I sat down and signalled to the waiter, “you look dispirited. What can I get for you?”
“A pearl handed pistol and one bullet,” she said quietly. “Barty, I’m ruined?”
“How come, old fruit?”
“I lost last night – heavily at the card tables. The deuced thing is, I don’t know how they did it.”
Now, stop me if I have told you this before, but Aunt Deborah amongst her other many virtues is a world class bridge player, and so normally the card tables of the casinos are a breeze to her.
“You think dirty and underhand methods were used?”
“Possibly – but I can’t prove it, and I need that money by week end or there will be hell to play. Barty,” she said as she pulled at my sleeve, “dear sweet Barty, will you help?”
“I’m no card player, aged rel – but with your permission, I will set the matter before Jayes. I am sure he will be able to find a way.”
“I see,” Jayes said as he raised an eyebrow, “do I understand you to say that Mrs Trotter believes the tables at the Ritz Casino are not fair?”
“That seems to be the rub of it, Jayes,” I said as I relaxed with the pre-dinner cocktail, “but if she cannot spot the scheme, then they are very good indeed.”
“I wonder, Sir, if I may be permitted to have the evening off? It may be that I can observe and ascertain if there are indeed underhand tactics at work.”
“Do so Jayes – I shall dine with friends tonight,” I said as I stood up. “Lay out the white jacket for me please.”
“Sir, I know it is not my place to say that your choice of apparel is not suitable, but…”
“Very good Sir,” he said as he retrieved the jacket, but the way he held it and the way he wrinkled his nose told all that needed to be told.
I enjoyed a fine meal with a few friends, and sauntered back to the hotel in time to see Magdalene Roberts stepping out of a car – and you could have knocked me backwards with the Daily Telegraph when I saw who was accompanying her.
“Well hello hello hello,” I said as I walked up, “did you both have a good evening?”
“Very much so,” Magdalene said as she looked at me, “I believe you know Marcus?”
“Rhymaes,” the beanpole by her side said as he looked at me. The Honourable Marcus Wainwright was a school chum of mine, and we went up to Oxford together, but while I returned to the bright lights he buried himself deep in the Lake District, there to continue his lifelong passion for birds.
“So are you two an item now?”
“We are friends, yes,” Marcus said, “come Magdalene, let us view the stars from the balcony.”
“Oh yes,” Magdalene literally purred as they walked in, leaving me standing before I followed them into the hotel, and to my room. Jayes had not yet returned, so I poured myself a drink and sat with a book he had left on a side table.
Now, I’m not saying the contents went over my head, but – well, here’s a quote.
“In a deep metaphysical sense, all that is conditioned is illusory. All phenomena are literally 'appearances,' the outer masks in which the One Reality shows itself forth in our changing universe. The more 'material' and solid the appearance, the further is it from reality, and therefore the more illusory it is.”
“Good evening Sir.”
“What ho Jayes,” I said as I turned round, “how was your evening?”
“Instructive – I believe Mrs Trotter is correct, and to use the vernacular the tables at the Ritz are crooked.”
“In what way, my man?”
“Well, Sir, I only studied for a short while, but I did recognise the art of dealing from the bottom of the deck, and also it is obvious to the trained eye that the cards are marked. I fear Mrs Trotter has indeed been, if you will forgive the word, fleeced.”
Well, this just will not do, what? “Jayes,” I said, “as her closest relative here it behoves us to retrieve her funds. I am open to suggestions?”
“Well, Sir, I think a raid on the counting room of the casino would be a reasonable approach. I took the liberty of visiting it as a guest of the head of security, to answer some pertinent questions I wished to raise, and in my considered opinion it would be a simple task for two men to raid and secure the funds from there.”
“I see,” I said as I sat down, deep in thought. “We would need some form of distraction to ensure the local gendarmerie was otherwise occupied.”
“Indeed Sir, if you will allow me to give it due consideration…”
Those thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door, and as Jayes opened it I saw Magdalene come in.
“Oh Barty,” she said, “I need your help. I’m mad about Marcus, and I worship the ground he walks on, but…”
“But he says nothing to woo the sweet birds of love?”
“How did you know?”
“I could tell when I saw you both – and I know Marcus is the shyest bird of them all. You need to draw him out, Magdalene.”
“Oh but I cannot – ever since the masked man in America, I have dreamed of the strong rescuer, coming to my aid. I know Marcus can be that man, but he needs to be given the opportunity.”
“Well, unless you can arrange a kidnapping, Magdalene, then…” Suddenly caught the look in her eye, and shook my head. “Oh no, please…”
“But you must, you simply must Barty. If you stage a kidnapping of me, and he comes to my rescue, I will know he is the one for me.”
“Barty, do this for me, please?”
Her eyes flashed, her eyelids fluttered, and the Rhymaes resolve melted as I said “oh all right – make sure he is in the lobby tomorrow morning, ten sharp, and we’ll do it then.”
Magdalene beamed as she left, and then I heard the soft cough of warning.
“Sir, I hate to impugn on what may be a noble quest, but the local police take kidnapping very seriously. I would advise extreme caution.”
“Nonsense Jayes – lay out simple raiment on the morrow, and see if you can procure a vehicle for the purposes of the quick getaway.”
Now, a caper such as this requires meticulous timing, so at ten in the morning Jayes was waiting in a black car outside the main entrance, the collar of his coat turned up and a cap pulled down over his eyes, while I stood by the main doorway.
Magdalene was right on time, walking out on the arm of Marcus, but before I could make my move a white car screeched round the corner, and would you believe it? Two men wearing scarves around their faces jumped out, grabbed Magdalene, clocked Marcus on the chin and dragged her into the car, before it sped off!
As the doorman rushed to the aid of Marcus, I walked quickly off, and round to the rear entrance, noticing Jayes driving off as well. So it was, fifteen minutes later and a change of apparel later, I came down to find the floor swarming with police, and the manager talking to Marcus as notes were taken.
“Good morning sir,” I heard Jayes say as he appeared beside me, “I regret I was late back from my morning constitutional, but I had some difficulty in gaining access to the hotel.”
“It would appear something is amiss, Jayes,” I said as Marcus walked over, took me by the arm and dragged me to one side. “Barty,” he said quietly, “I need your help. I know who took Magdalene, but I cannot tell the police.”
“Why on earth not, old sausage?”
“Can I trust both of you?”
Jayes and I exchanged a significant glance, and nodded before Marcus said “I have a number of jobs, but one of the reasons I am here is to – well, collect some items on behalf of His Majesty’s Government.”
“You’re a spy?”
“A courier – well, the men who took Magdalene know I have the items, and want them from me. I will not give them, but I cannot risk her life.”
“If I may enquire, Sir, where are they holding her?”
“The Ritz Casino. I can get her out, but I would need a distraction. And I need two volunteers to make that distraction.”
Jayes and I exchanged another Sig. glance, and then I said “leave everything to us, old fruit. When and how long?”
It was nine in the evening when all three of us entered the casino. Marcus and I were dressed in our evening wear for the casino, while Jayes was his usual correctly attired self, save for the small bag he carried in one hand.
“Are you quite sure this is what you want us to do, old fruit,” I whispered to Marcus as we stood by the entrance to the casino floor.
“Absolutely – await my signal, and then begin the distraction.”
“All right,” I said as I went to the Chemin de Fer table, Jayes standing a discrete distance away as I began to play. In the meantime, Marcus took the bag from Jayes and made his way slowly round the game floor, nodding to both of us before he slipped into a side room.
For my part, I left the table, and slipped out to join Jayes. He handed me a ladies silk stocking from his pocket, pulling one down over his own head as I did, and then a very serviceable gun from within his own jacket.
“If you will follow my lead, sir,” he said quietly as we stood either side of the door to the counting room, counting down from three before I opened the door and we walked in.
“Good evening,” Jayes said in an impeccable French accent, “Kindly stop what you are doing, and lay face down on the floor with your hands behind your heads. Do this, and nobody gets hurt.”
There were three people in the room – an elderly gentleman in a suit, shirt and tie, and two women in the early thirties, dressed in long sleeved blouses, tight pencil skirts and shocked expressions as they saw us waving our guns around.
“We said to get on the floor,” I offered by way of support, watching as the three of them hurriedly lay face down. Jayes walked over and pulled the telephones away from the desks, as I retrieved some pre-cut lengths of cord from my own jacket pocket and proceeded to bind the wrists and ankles of the two women.
“You,” Jayes said as he made the older mans stand up, “put the takings into that valise on the table – and all of them mind.”
“Yes – yes of course,” the man said, and he sounded jolly frightened – so did the two women, especially when I rolled them over and stuffed a handkerchief into each of their mouths.
A clean one of course – I am a gentleman, after all. I left them there, looking up as Jayes bound the old man in a chair, and then pushed a handkerchief into his mouth as well.
“Nobody moves for fifteen minutes,” Jayes said as we walked out of the room, pulling the stockings from our heads and nodding to each other as we walked across the busy floor and out of the front entrance.
And not a moment too soon either – as we set off in a car, we saw the flashing lights and heard the sirens of the local gendarmerie as they came at great speed to the casino entrance.
Ten minutes later, I was relaxing in the chair in my room with a largish W&S as Jayes laid out my bedclothes.
“So what were the takings from our distraction, Jayes?”
“I will need to do a precise count, sir, but if the staff in the room were as efficient as I believe they were, something in the excess of sixty thousand francs.”
Letting out an appreciative whistle, I said “top hole, Jayes – that should keep the balance in the black for some considerable time. See that it is properly deposited and Aunt Deborah suitably recompensed.”
“I shall sir. May I enquire if you have heard from Mister Wainwright?”
“No I have not,” I said as I glanced at my watch, “and that is a matter of growing concern. I hope he has not landed himself in hot water.”
“As do I sir, if you will excuse me?”
I nodded as he went to the door, and returned with a telegram. Opening it, I looked at it and then handed it to Jayes. He looked at it, and then at me as there was a second knock at the door and Marcus came in.
“She wasn’t there,” he said as he looked at us. “What’s wrong?”
“Jayes, go to my Aunt Deborah’s room and see if she is there. Marcus, I think they were onto you – if Jayes returns with the message I fear, we have no time to lose.”
It only took a minute for Jayes to silently re-enter, and I could see in his face the answer.
“I regret to say, sir, that Mrs Trotter is not in her room – and I had to extricate her maid from the ropes that were holding her to the bed.”
“Marcus, we have a mutual problem,” I said, “and I know only one course of action.”
“And that is?”
“Rely on a mind of pure genius. Jayes, your suggestions please?”
“If you will read this, sir,” Jayes said as he handed Marcus the telegram, and gave him a moment to digest the contents.
“They have your aunt as well? How can I help?”
“I fear, Sir, that first we must take you into certain confidences that, should they become public knowledge, may place both Mister Rhymaes and myself in a slightly precarious position, both in a social and in a magisterial sense of the word.”
“Can I have that in plain English,” Marcus said as he looked at me.
“We need to tell you a secret and we need your word you can keep it secret.”
“You have it, if it brings Magdalene back safe.”
Jayes nodded as I took a deep breath and said “Jayes and I are robbers.”
Marcus looked at both of us, and then said “You work for The Agency?”
“I work for Mister Rhymaes in the position of Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman, sir,” Jayes said quietly, “but we are both members in good standing of that organisation.”
“Right,” Marcus said, “so what do we do first?”
“If you will excuse me sir,” Jayes said, “I will ascertain the source of the telegram, and make further enquiries. I shall return shortly.”
“Work quickly, Jayes,” I said as he slipped out.
“Do you trust him?”
“Implicitly,” I said as I looked at Marcus. “Now, we need you to be formally attired – and you may like a stiff drink. We could have a night’s work ahead of us to get both women back without revealing who we are.”
It was nearer an hour before Jayes returned, and one look at him told us he had been successful.
“They are currently domiciled at a small house in the upper districts of the town, sir. I have seen the building, and a rescue is possible if we deal with the guards.
“That’s my job,” Marcus said, “but how do we make sure they don’t know who we are?”
“I regret to say it may be necessary to sedate the ladies slightly to ensure they do not recognise us, sir,” Jayes said. “I took the liberty of procuring some chloroform for such a purpose. May I suggest that black would be appropriate?”
“I’ll be back in ten,” Marcus said as he walked quickly out, while Jayes went to the wardrobe.
“What are you doing Jayes?”
“Laying out your working clothes, sir,” he said as he laid out the trousers and jumper. “I will then go and change personally, and meet you and Mister Wainwright in the rear of the hotel, where I have a vehicle waiting in readiness.”
“Jayes, doesn’t it concern you that Marcus knows now.”
“I feel it a calculated risk sir – he is a man of discretion, and I think his love for Miss Roberts at this time overshadows any legal qualms. We also will require three people – the extraction will require finesse. At any rate, to make a fine omelette, one must first break the eggs.”
“Very well then,” I said as I stood up, “go and change quickly.”
It was about three in the morning as Jayes parked the car outside a house, and looked up to the single light in an upstairs window.
“May I suggest we enter through the front door, Sir,” he said quietly, “they will not be expecting that.”
Both Marcus and I nodded as we all got out, and tied dark bandanas over our lower faces, before we walked into the gate and opened the front door. Jayes had been right – there was nobody in the hallway, but we could hear voices in the kitchen and upstairs.
Marcus pointed to the wooden staircase and then to us, as he made his way to the rear. Jayes and I looked at each other and then started to walk slowly up, taking great care not to stand on any floorboards that looked loose.
As we reached the top of the stairs, Jayes indicated we should remain quiet, and we crept along the hall, approaching that one room where a light could be seen under the sill of the door. Kneeling down, I watched as Jayes opened the door and slowly pushed it inwards.
I could see Magdalene and Aunt Deborah sitting in two chairs, staring at someone still hidden. Magdalene was dressed as she had been this morning, while my beloved rel wore a dressing gown over a blue silk nightdress.
Both were secured in the same way though – ankles secured together and to one of the front legs of the chair, and rope around their legs, gathering their skirts around them as it held firm.
Ropes were also around their upper bodies, securely holding them to the chair backs as their arms went around and behind – doubtless secured as well to the chair itself. Long cloth bands had been pulled between their lips as well – the dark stain in Magdalene’s an indicator of how long she had been there.
Jayes and I looked at each other and nodded, before we burst into the room, me shoving the door quickly back and connecting with whoever was there. As we went in, we saw the lascar pick himself up from the floor, as both the ladies started screaming into their gags.
“Allow me,” Jayes said, and I went behind D and M as he gave a first class demonstration of the manly art of boxing. The poor man never stood a chance, as with three blows to his kidneys and chin Jayes laid him out flat.
“Whhruuu,” Magdalene said as I poured some clear liquid from a bottle onto a cloth, and then held it over her mouth and nose, her eyes widening and then closing as the fumes did their work. Aunt Deborah is made of sterner stuff, but eventually she too succumbed to the fumes, and her head fell to the side.
“Help me cut them free Jayes,” I whispered as I picked up a large looking knife, and sliced through the ropes holding them to the chair.
“May I suggest we keep them partially bound until we have them in the car, sir – it allows a certain level of truth if a guard finds us.”
I nodded in agreement as I picked up Magdalene, and Jayes the aged rel, and we walked out of the room – only to find an armed and very dangerous looking man blocking our way.
“Just put them back,” he growled, and then he crumpled to the floor as Marcus appeared behind him. He looked at us, said “don’t ask,” and motioned we should follow him down the stairs.
As we sat the girls in the back of the car, and untied their limbs, Marcus said “Go – I’ll catch up with you in an hour. I need to get the police here.”
“Of course, sir,” Jayes said as we got in the front, and drove off.
“Good morning,” I said as Aunt Deborah came down to the breakfast table, “sleep well?”
“Eventually,” she said as she sat down. “Did you do something at the casino last night?”
“Good morning Mrs Trotter,” Jayes said as he appeared, “this was delivered by hand for you this morning – I took the liberty of bringing it straight to you.”
Aunt Deborah took the envelope, examined the contents, and then looked at both of us. “Well, this is a nice surprise,” she said, “but to return to my question, did you? Because some rascals kidnapped me from my room, I was tied up and gagged, and then – well, I was put to sleep by a masked man, and woke up in my room with my maid attending.”
“Quite a night then,” I said with a smile, “but I was occupied all night, was I not Jayes?”
“Indeed, Sir – you had dinner with Mister Wainwright, and then spent the evening playing billiards in the games room.”
“Good morning Magdalene, I see you were released from whoever snatched you?”
“Indeed – a very strange experience,” she said as Marcus gently led her to a different table.
“She was with me,” Aunt Deborah said. “Barty, do you know anything about this?”
“Only what you have told me now, aged rel,” I said as I signalled to the waiter. “You can tell me all about it over breakfast.”
“Mister Wainwright,” Jayes said as he opened the door and allowed Marcus to enter, before resuming the packing.
“Indeed – I have to return to continue the preparations for my upcoming nuptials.”
Marcus smiled as he held his hand out. “Then let us shake by way of thanks,” he said grasping firmly my hand and then that of Jayes.
“Marcus, touching on a sensitive matter…”
“Don’t worry – I have my own secrets as well,” he said with a smile.
As he left, and Jayes closed the door, I said “Do not forget the white jacket Jayes.”
“Ah – I regret to say sir that I inadvertently left the hot iron on it last night when I was ironing it. I will, of course, accept any punitive damages.”
“Forget it,” I said with a sigh, “sometimes you have to break some eggs to make an omelette, eh Jayes?”
It was some years later when that statement came back to haunt all of us – but that’s a story for another day…