Jayes and the Masked Marvel
“Do you know, Jayes,” I said as I looked out over Central Park, “I do believe this is going to be a most interesting city.”
“Indeed, Sir,” Jayes replied as he continued with the unpacking, “The change of scenery should be invigorating and stimulating in many ways.”
I guess an explanation is in order – owing to a slight misunderstanding over the ownership of some silver cow creamers, it had been necessary for Jayes and I to take an extended vacation from the mother country, and so two days previously we had found ourselves at the ungodly hour of 6 AM alighting from the Queen Mary on the docks at New York City. Jayes had spent the time since in finding appropriate accommodation, and so I was enjoying a W&S while looking out over the scenery.
A soft cough came from behind me, and I turned to see Jayes holding a white suit in his hands.
“It would appear that the cabin crew have inadvertently returned someone’s suit to you by mistake, sir,” he said. “Shall I contact the company?”
“No, Jayes,” I said with a light tone, “I propose to be the person people turn to in this society, and this suit will be an excellent way of doing that.”
In response, Jayes raised an eyebrow, the only way I have ever seen him express displeasure. “If I may remind you, Sir, discretion is essential if we are to find profitable pursuit in New York. This suit, while well made, will none the less….”
“Enough, Jayes,” I said with a wave of my hand, “the suit stays.”
“Very good, Sir,” Jayes said, but as he turned to place it in the wardrobe I could sense his displeasure. My man could be a little old-fashioned, but I knew his support and skills in other areas was invaluable.
“May I remind you, Sir that you are due to meet Mister Sloane for dinner tonight?”
I smiled. Ringo Sloane was an old schoolmate who had moved to the New Country two years previously, and he had agreed to introduce me to some of the bright young things.
“Ah yes, I had forgotten. Lay out the evening wear Jayes – and what are your plans for this evening?”
“I propose to spend some time with an educational book, but prior to that I thought I would tour the local area.”
“Very good, Jayes – now lead me to the refreshing bath!”
Well, I spent a most entertaining evening with old Ringo, listening to some of the newfangled jazz bands and making a few new friends. One in particular was a stunning young woman by the name of Magdalene Roberts, who I had seen a few times at other parties back home but never really talked to. We didn’t talk a lot that night either, but her simple beauty and long dark hair hit me like a six off a Yorker at Lords. As Ringo and I waited for a cab, I asked him about her.
“Magdalene? A lovely girl, but have you talked to her?”
“No – why?”
Ringo just smiled and hailed a yellow car.
The next morning, I sat at the table as Jayes served up the bacon and eggs.
“Did I see a police car outside when I returned last night, Jayes?”
He nodded. “Indeed, Sir, it appears that Miss Davies in the flat below us was robbed. Some of her finest jewellery was taken. She did not see the perpetrator, as he dropped a pillow case over her head before binding her and pulling the cloth into her mouth with a scarf.”
I frowned. “Most unfortunate – but I presume she is unhurt.”
“I believe so, sir – shaken, but unharmed.”
“Good show, Jayes. Now, have you laid out my clothes – I fancy a turn in the park is in order?”
Jayes nodded, and I made my way to the bedroom, only to stop in my tracks.
“Jayes, I believe I shall wear the white suit today.”
“Forgive me, Sir, but a simple tweed would be…”
“The white suit, Jayes, now!”
“Very good, Sir,” he said with a bow and went forth to change the articles while I headed for the bathroom. One hour later, I was strolling in the greenery of Central Park when I heard a female voice saying “Mister Rhymaes?”
Turning, I beheld Magdalene Roberts behind me. She was wearing a grey tailored skirt and jacket, with a pale blue hat on her head, and carried a parasol over her shoulder. I doffed my hat and replied “Miss Roberts, I presume? I saw you last night at the Astoria, but we did not have a chance to talk.”
“No, but I was much taken with you. May I walk with you a while?”
I offered my arm in reply, and we strolled through the park. As we passed a particularly large grass area, dotted with daisies and buttercups, she stood and sighed.
“Is anything the matter, Miss Roberts?”
“Please, call me Magdalene.”
“Well, you may call me Barty, but is anything wrong?”
“I was just admiring the wonderful provision for all God’s creatures.”
“Well, yes I suppose we do get what we want, but what…”
“Look how he provides buttercups for the golden liquor the fairies need, and daisies to lay their heads upon. Isn’t it wonderful?”
I have to confess that I stared at her. I had asked Ringo about Magdalene the previous night, and I knew she was an heiress of independent means, but now to find she was someone with a mental capacity to wonder about, I have to confess it made me feel super intelligent.
“Oh, quite, quite, but tell me Magdalene…”
“Oh Barty, do you believe in true love at first sight?”
Well, that stumped me, so I stammered something incomprehensible before she went on “I saw you in England before, but last night I was certain we were meant to be together. Barty, will you be my companion here and forever.”
“WWWW – well, it is a tempting offer, but we hardly know each other. After all, it takes time to find out what people are really like and…”
“Barty, you are silly,” Magdalene said with a giggle. “I am holding a small soiree tonight, say you will be there?”
Well, a gentlemen cannot refuse to accept an offer from a lady, so I nodded dumbly and watched Magdalene walk off into the distance. Turning quickly, I made my way back to the flat and found Jayes drinking a cup of tea.
“I am sorry, sir, I was not expecting you back for some time,” he said a she placed a number of items of jewellery into a velvet sack.
“Gather round Jayes, a crisis has arisen.”
“Indeed, Sir?” He put down his cup and looked up.
“Are you familiar with a woman called Magdalene Roberts?”
“The niece of Lord Walter Roberts, the magistrate? I am familiar with her sir. Why do you ask?”
“Because we just walked in the park, and she is now convinced that I am to be her life partner.”
“Will you stop saying that? Anyway, apart from the fact that she has the intellectual capacity of a rhododendron, imagine the impact a wife would have on my lifestyle!”
I sat down in an armchair, and stayed there deep in thought while Jayes made up a bracer for me. As he brought it over, a light went off in my head.
“I have it, Jayes – we’re going to rob her.”
Jayes smiled. “A difficult proposition sir, as she is staying in the Astoria in a private suite. How shall we gain access?”
“I forget to tell you – I have an invitation to a soiree there tonight. If you will accompany me, I can secrete you somewhere with what we require, and then we can execute the crime after others have left.”
“A complicated plan, Sir. If I may make a suggestion…”
“No, Jayes, it is a simple and elegant plan. When she discovers her losses, I will then play the fool and laugh it off, and she will drop me as a dilettante. You say the elegance of it?”
Jayes bowed and walked off. “Where are you going, Jayes?”
“To prepare a small valise, sir.”
As he walked off, he looked down at a small pile of magazines that I had purchased while returning from my walk. They al had painted covers, showing various women in varying degrees of distress, with armed men on every one.
“An interesting selection of titles, Sir. I presume these are to gain some idea of the local culture and reading tastes?”
“In a way Jayes – it seems the people around here are fascinated with crime. Especially with masked men who seek to foil the criminals in their work. It should help pass the time before retiring, what?”
“Indeed, Sir,” he replied with one eyebrow arched, turning to go back to his preparations no doubt,
Well, when we arrived at the Astoria it was obvious that many of the Bright Young Things had come. We ascended in the elevator, and as Jayes went to deposit my coat I made my way into the room.
It was a pleasant enough evening, with some very interesting people. One in particular was a young woman wearing a stunning dress of cream silk with a beaded overlay. I turned to Ringo and asked who this visionof loveliness was.
"Her - she's Alicia Masters. A woman of independant wealth I'm told, with an Italian husband who seems to be away on business a lot. Why?"
"Introduce me, Ringo old bean - I find her strangely alluring."
Introductions were made, we talked a while, danced a few quick steps, and were having fun until I heard “Barty – come and join me.”
Magdalene was wearing a dress of pale brown chiffon which fell over her slim party to accentuate her shape. Again, I had to remind myself of the task that night, and the fact she only had to open her mouth – which she did to say “Don’t you think the stars shine for us tonight, Barty?”
Fortunately, I was stopped from saying what I really felt by Alicia saying “Mister Rhymaes, I would be honoured if you would join us for dinner the day after tomorrow – just a select few people.”
She handed me a slip of paper, and flashed a smile at both of us as we looked out of the window.
It was nearly midnight before I left the party – the last person to do so, leaving Magdalene and her maid alone. Descending in the elevator, I doubled back up the stairs to where Jayes was waiting. Removing the dinner jacket, I pulled on the thick coat Jayes had thoughtfully packed as he checked our supplies.
“Ready, Jayes,” I said as I slipped the mask over my eyes. He nodded as we left our hiding place and crept along the corridor. The suite was silent – there wasn’t even the sound of clearing up. I was about to say something when Jayes placed a hand on my shoulder and a finger to his lips.
He pointed to the door to the main room, which stood ajar. Peeking in, I could see Magdalene’s maid lying on the floor, struggling and trying to call for help. Her body was covered in several layers of rope around her arms and legs, while a white cloth was in her mouth and a second covering her eyes.
“If I may suggest, Sir, our plans appear to need amending. Follow me.”
We retired to the room again, where I regained my earlier dress. As I pulled on my dinner jacket, I said to Jayes “What do you think has happened here?”
“I cannot say Sir, but it would be most efficacious for us if you were the one to come back and find her. May I suggest we call the elevator and, as the saying goes, take it from there?”
Once more we crept out, and I pressed the button. As the door opened, I said out loud “I know I left my hat here, Jayes – hold the lift while I go and fetch it.”
As expected, there was a muffled scream, and I said “Come with me, Jayes.” Running into the room, we knelt next to the maid and removed the clothes from her face.
“Miss Magdalene – they’ve taken my mistress” she screamed. “Jayes – call the lobby and ask them to fetch the police while I untie her,” I said as I started to loosen the ropes around her uniform.
“This is a decidedly sticky wicket, Jayes,” I said the next morning as I sat at the breakfast table. “A decidedly sticky wicket indeed.”
“It is indeed a most unfortunate turn of events, Sir” Jayes said as he poured the coffee. “May I ask what you propose to do now?”
“Jayes, I have no idea. From what her maid said, they were jumped by three armed and masked intruders, two of whom spirited Magdalene away while the third secured her. Most roughly as well by the sound of things, eh?”
“Indeed, sir – I had a most illuminating discussion with the young lady while we waited for the police to finish talking to you. It appears there has been a rash of such abductions recently.”
I shuddered. Yes, in some of the visits that Jayes and I make we have had occasion to secure and detain occupants, but to kidnap them was not in the code of the Rhymaes.
“It sounds like something from a penny dreadful,” I said as I sipped my coffee.
“Indeed, sir –I took the liberty of perusing some of the magazines that you had purchased. It appears to be a popular theme for people in this city.”
I nodded – I had seen some of the same magazines the other day.
“Well, the question now is what we do next. Any thoughts?”
“Just one, Sir – perhaps when you visit Miss Masters tomorrow, we take the opportunity to replenish our coffers slightly? From what you said of the lady, she may prove a most profitable person.”
I considered this. “Jayes, you have a point there. See if you can obtain a vehicle, and follow me when I travel there tomorrow.”
Well, it took an hour or so to reach her house, but at seven punctually I was admitted to the abode of Alicia Masters. It was a lovely house, well decorated, and the meal was excellent, with Alicia holding court in conversation. She seemed especially interested in life in Blighty, and laughed at all my jokes.
At any rate, when the time came to depart I thanked her for a wonderful evening, and left in the cab. A short way down the road, I stopped the taxi, jumped out and walked back to where Jayes was discreetly parked in a side road.
“Jayes, I see a most profitable night ahead,” I said as I changed in the back of the car. “Miss Masters only has a maid resident, and she is older than many I have seen. I do not perceive any difficulties.”
“Indeed, Sir,” Jayes replied. “What approach do you suggest?”
“Why, we go in as all gentlemen do, Jayes – through the front door.”
Well, when the elderly maid opened the door, the last thing she expected would have been two men in masks and dark clothing running and grabbing her. As Jayes clamped his hand over her mouth, I said in a rough accent “Where’s your mistress?”
She pointed to the staircase, and I said to Jayes “Deal with her” as I made my way up. As I passed a small table, I noticed a tray with a domed plate on it and a small bag, but thought nothing more of it as I ran up the stairs.
I could hear Jayes saying “In here” in a thick Scots accent as I climbed the staircase and made my way along the corridor. I could see a light under a door, so I pushed it open and found Alicia sitting at a dressing table, combing through her hair with a pearl handled brush. She looked up and saw me in reflection in her mirror, and turned round to look at me.
“Is this a robbery?” she said as she sat there in a light green silk dressing gown. I nodded as I pointed a small pistol at her and motioned to her to stand up. She stood up, allowing her dressing gown to drop to the ground and reveal pyjamas of the same material.
“I guess you’re going to tie me up, then,” she said as she walked over to the bed. “Well, you must not keep a lady waiting.”
I produced several lengths of thin silken rope from my pocket, and silently stood behind her as I started to tie her wrists together. She looked over her shoulder as I cinched the ropes, said “You seem to know what you’re doing” in a southern accent and offered no resistance as I secured them into the small of her back by passing the ends around her waist.
A few minutes later, she watched from the bed as I emptied the contents of her jewellery cases into my sack. She certainly had a very good selection, and I could not stop myself from smiling as I searched her drawers.
“Do you get a kick out of this?” she said as she looked down at her bound ankles and legs.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Do you enjoy tying women up?”
“Yes, but there’s something I enjoy even more.”
“Silencing them,” I said as I pushed one of her scented handkerchiefs into her mouth, and used the sash from her dressing gown to secure it in place. As I left the room, I looked back and to my astonishment she was smiling at me – almost as if she was enjoying the experience.
“Most peculiar,” I whispered as I made my way down to the lower floor. There was no sign of Jayes, but the domed plate was still there. Curiosity got the better of me, and I lifted the dome to reveal a selection of sandwiches. As I opened the bag by the plate, I retrieved a pair of soft kid gloves and a silken hood with holes for eyes and a mouth. I stared at them, astonished, until I heard a soft cough behind me.
“I trust we have completed our work, Sir” Jayes said in a whisper.
“Yes, but I say Jayes, does anything strike you as funny?”
“Well, Sir, I would not normally comment, but as I was securing the maid to a chair she did say something that did astonish me.”
“Astonish you, Jayes? That’s a first – what did she say?”
“She said it made a nice change to be on the receiving end for once.”
“Jayes,” I said as I thought this over, “We need to investigate further. Have you searched down here?”
He held up a sack that clinked as he did so. “I have indeed, Sir – have you completed upstairs?”
I nodded, and looked around. Under the staircase there was a door, which probably led to a cellar.” “Shall we have a quick look before we go, Jayes?”
Picking up a small lantern, we descended a stone staircase. At the foot were a number of small doors, with little slides to allow one to look inside. There was a soft moaning coming from the one nearest to the foot of the stairs, and Jayes and I looked at each other. I pulled back the shutter and peeked in.
Sitting on a chair in the middle of the bare room was Magdalene, sat on a wooden chair. Rope was tied around her waist and chest, and her arms were pulled behind her back. Her ankles had been secured to the front legs of the chair, and her legs tied together at her knees. The silk of her gown was torn and stained, and there were tear stains on her cheeks. At least, I could see them on what was visible of her cheeks, as there was a wide black cloth over her eyes and a thick cloth was tied between her lips.
“My god,” I whispered as I closed the shutter when Magdalene raised her head. “Alicia Masters must have been responsible for the kidnappings. What have we walked into, Jayes?”
“If you will permit me, sir, I believe there is an opportunity here to deal with several problems at once. I must ask, however, that you trust me and accept what I say without question.”
I opened the shutter and looked in again. Magdalene was looking round, trying to speak and call for help, but she sounded tired and weak.
“If you go in there, Sir, I fear she may recognise you – she has never met me, and I believe I can sort this situation to our mutual benefit.”
I thought this over, and nodded.
“Believe me, Sir, it is a far better thing you do now than you have ever done. Take our gains and leave in the car – I will follow shortly.”
Nodding, I climbed the staircase and picked up our bags. As I left the house, I thought I could hear Magdalene’s voice saying “Who are you?” but I left without finding out what was happening.
A few days later, I was sitting at the breakfast table as Jayes provided the food, reading in the Times of how the kidnapped heiress Magdalene Roberts had been found outside a police station, cold, weak and bearing the signs of being held captive. She said that a masked man had come into her cell, silently released her and taken her to a nearby station, leaving her there without a word. All she knew was he was tall, strong and silent, but he had saved her life.
In a related article, there was a report of a burglary at the Hamptons home of Alicia Masters, where she and her maid were bound and gagged. Jewellery and silverware were taken, but the perpetrators were still at large.
As I placed the paper on the table, I looked up at Jayes.
“So, Jayes, how does it feel to be reported as the Masked Marvel that rescues the damsel in distress?”
“Strangely gratifying, Sir. If you will excuse me, I hear the telephone ringing.”
He sidled off for a moment, and then returned to say “Miss Roberts on the line, Sir.”
I stood up and made my way to where the set was waiting, picking up the receiver and saying “Magdalene, I’m glad you’re safe. May I come to visit?”
“Oh Barty,” the soft voice said, “Thank you but no – I am still recovering, and – well there is one other thing.”
“What is that, oh lovely one?”
“I have seen the true love of my life, Barty, and I am afraid it is not you. It will forever be the silent man who rescued me. I do not know who he was, but if I see him again I will. If he will have me, I will be his bride. If not….”
“Then I will accept your offer, Barty. Until then, can we be friends?”
“Of course, my dear girl, of course.”
“Thank you,” she said as the lien went dead. I walked back into the room and sat down.
“Jayes,” I said, “I regret to inform you that your rescue has had unexpected consequences.”
“Indeed, Sir,” he said with one eyebrow raised.
“Yes – it seems that if Miss Roberts ever finds out it was you, you are to be her husband.”
“Then it will be expedient of me not to meet her, sir. I understand Lord Roberts has arrived, and is taking her back to England by the next available liner. It should be simple enough to, as our American cousins’ say, lie low until then.”
I nodded. “Jayes, that white suit. You really hate it?”
“It is a trifle bright, Sir.”
“When you visit our mutual friend today, give it to the deserving poor. I feel subtlety is best from now on.”
“Very good, Sir,” he said as he poured more coffee.