Jayes and The Mummy Problem
There have been occasions when, in the course of life, my strong right arm Jayes and I have needed to head for sunnier climes for the good of our health. By that I mean that if we did not rather sharpishly leave the Metrop, we would be enjoying a forced health cure and diet at the expense of His Majesty, which while it undoubtedly would lead to a slimmer and more muscular boy is not the style of life Bartholomew Judas Rhymaes was born for.
So it was on one particular December that, instead of shivering in the cold winds of Londonium, I was relaxing on the sun deck of a boat floating down the Nile, waiting for Jayes to bring me the before dinner cocktail. It was he who suggested an Egyptian trip would be a sensible idea, rather the unfortunate misunderstanding over the ownership of Lady DeBonneville’s diamond necklace, and I had to admit it was a jolly good idea.
A slight cough to my side told me that, silent as ever, Jayes had arrived with the glass, so I sat up and took the restorative liquid from him.
“So, Jayes,” I said as I took a sip, “Have you managed to learn anything of the rest of our party on the trip.”
“There are five other groupings on the boat, Sir,” Jayes said in his quiet, sensible voice. “A Mrs Agatha Brown and her companion, Mister and Mrs DeWitt-Thomas, The Dowager Lady Clark and her maid, and a Mister George Benson with a Miss Alicia Ferris.”
I almost choked on the drink as I sat bolt upright. “Beefy Benson is on the boat? I thought he had moved to one of those northern metropolitan cities. What is he doing sunning himself on a boat – and who is this Ferris girl anyway?”
“I believe Mister Benson is affianced to Miss Ferris, sir – I have seen them walking no deck, arm in arm, and they seem a most hospitable couple.”
“Well, well, well,” I said as I took another sip, “I haven’t seen Beefy in years. Hang on – you said five couples. Who is the fifth party?”
“Sir Clive and Lady Delores Pugh, Sir.”
For the second time, I choked on what was meant to be a restorative drink. “Sir Clive and Lady Delores Pugh,” I said as I stared incredulously back at my man.
“Indeed, sir,” he said as he proffered a napkin to wipe myself with. “It is my understanding that they will be joined in Luxor by Miss Gladys and Miss Daphne Pugh.”
He raised an eyebrow as he said this, and I exchanged a significant glance with him. We were well acquainted with Gladys Pugh, after a recent incident which I have recorded elsewhere in my memoirs, and while not averse to meeting the old sausage again it did provide one small difficulty.
“Jayes,” I said as I sat myself up, “Is their presence likely to affect our plans for the next two evenings?”
“I do not anticipate any difficulty, sir,” he said in a low whisper, “As you are aware, we have accounted for any possible examination of the situation in our plans.”
“Very good, Jayes,” I said as I stood up and stretched, “Then I think it is time to prepare for the evening meal. If you will lead me to the cabin and prepare suitable raiment...”
I walked off, Jayes collecting my glass and heading after me as I did so, but who should I bump into as I turned the corner but Beefy Benson himself. I literally mean bump – we walked into each other with sufficient force to make us both step back, me into the waiting arms of Jayes and Beefy into the arms of a slim, blue eyed, blonde haired beauty in a gossamer dress.
“Watch where you’re – Barty?”
“What ho, Beefy,” I said as I brushed myself down. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“George, who is this gentleman,” the blonde said in a light, clear voice.
“Ah yes – Alicia, this is the honourable Bartholomew J Rhymaes, Barty to his friends. Barty, this is Alicia Ferris, my fiancée.”
“Charmed, I’m sure,” I said as I bowed slightly. “My man, Jayes,” I said as he moved silently up behind me.
“Miss Ferris, Mister Benson,” he said as he bowed his head. “Forgive me, sir, but we do need to go and prepare for the evening meal.”
“Of course, Jayes – well, I shall see you both at dinner,”
I don’t know if you have ever dined on of those river boat thingies, but the experience always depends on three things – the stillness of the boat, the fellow diners, and the cook. Well, on this particular boat the cook seemed to have learned his trade at the Ritz instead of the last rust bucket, and the river was peaceful and still. What made it such a rum meal was the companionship.
Oh, Beefy and his fiancée were good company, as we sat and trade boyhood stories. It was the rest of the party. Lady Clark was a woman who made the dreaded Aunt Agnes look like a portrait of innocence and beauty, as she sat in her dress that looked like nothing more than an arrangement of black coal sacks. Agatha Brown was a thin, bespectacled woman in a tweed jacket and skirt, with a set of pearls the size of gobstoppers around her neck, while her companion was a small, petite woman who said nothing, sipping her consommé as if it was the most nutritious thing she had ever tasted.
Now, as for the Pughs – it struck me that two fun loving and free living girls like Gladys and Daphne must have drawn the short straw to have Sir Clive and Lady
Delores as their aged rels. It wasn’t as if they openly criticised Beefy and I as we told tales of boyhood exploits – it was the way they looked at us, and the quiet tut-tutting that escaped from Lady Delores from time to time as she stared at us through her fringe of brown hair with clear, cold blue eyes. They seemed to spend most of their time speaking to the DeWitt-Thomases – an English couple that seemed to take an interest in most of the females in the party, even engaging Lady Clark in stilted conversation from time to time.
The meal passed smoothly enough, and as the ladies departed Sir Clive opened the port and passed it to me.
“I believe you know our daughters, Mister Rhymaes,” he said as I poured myself a large glass.
“Oh I should say so,” I said as I passed the bottle onto Beefy, “We met some months ago – a delightful pair of young fillies.”
“Hmm – I am not sure I approve of speaking of them in that manner,” he said, before smiling and continuing “I will grant you, however, they are lively. My wife is somewhat more disapproving of that than I am, but I allow her to believe I feel the same way.”
“Ladies should always be treated the same way,” DeWitt-Thomas said as he stood up, “with a firm hand and discipline.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Beefy said as he sat back, “Love has a part to play in it as well.”
“No, discipline is important,” DeWitt-Thomas insisted as the door opened and Jayes glided in.
“Yes, Jayes,” I said with an air of despair, “What is it?”
“Forgive me, Sir, I have a telegram for Sir Clive,” my man said as he held out a silver platter. Gladys’ father took the paper, read it and said “Thank you, my man, there is no reply,” before placing it in his pocket.
“Not bad news I trust,” I said as Jayes quietly slipped out.
“No – the girls are going to be slightly delayed. Bad weather in the Gibraltar strait, so they will arrive a day later than planned.”
“How unfortunate – I looked forward to seeing the little minxes again.”
I saw Sir Clive smile for a second, before he continued “I believe the ladies are talking of taking a trip to the pyramids to see the tombs when we dock tomorrow. Will your wife be accompanying them?”
“I believe she will be,” DeWitt-Thomas said with a nod of his head. “What will you do tomorrow, Rhymaes?”
“Oh, I’ll just lounge around,” I said with a yawn as I got up. “Forgive me, Gentlemen, but it has been a long day. I will see you at breakfast tomorrow?”
Leaving the room, I bumped into Jayes as he was walking on the deck. “Is everything ready, Jayes?” I said as I lit a cigarette.
“Indeed, Sir. I have laid suitable raiment in the cabin, and we can proceed at midnight.”
“Excellent work, Jayes, excellent,” I said as I walked in one direction, Jayes setting off in the other.
As we stepped out of the cabin later that night, Jayes said “The moon shone bright and the
stars gave a light, A little before 'twas day” as he looked up at the clear sky.
“One of yours, Jayes?”
“No, sir, a carol from my younger days. It seems most appropriate for the time of day and the time of year.”
“Well, let’s be about it. Where is the rather strait Miss Brown’s cabin?”
“The last door on the left, sir. Her companion sleeps in that room, and Miss Brown ahs the connecting room.” We stole along the deck, our black clothing hiding us, until we reached the door and Jayes placed a cloth eye mask on his face.
“If you would, sir,” he said looking at me, reminding me that I should do likewise. I slipped the mask down as he silently opened the door, and we stole in.
The cabin was simply furnished, with a single bed against the wall covered in a mosquito net. Through the muslin we could see her companion, sound asleep in a light white nightdress. Slipping past her, we opened the connecting door and slipped in.
Agatha Brown was lying on her bed, dressed in a rather striking pair of light green silk pyjamas with her hair held back by a strip of silk. Jayes put his finger to his lips and pointed to a large wooden box that sat on the dressing table, which I moved over to and tried to quietly open.
Tried was the mot juste, as I managed to knock a tin of talcum powder onto the ground as I let the lid go to the table top. I froze as I heard Agnes say “Who’s there,” and sit up in the bed.
Jayes, bless his heart, was on the job as he covered her mouth and whispered “Just stay quiet and you won’t be hurt.” He took a handkerchief from his pocket, folded it neatly and pushed it into Agatha’s mouth, saying “Keep that in there and lie down on your stomach,” her eyes wide as he said that.
I turned my attention back to the jewellery box, taking out the pearls and looking at them in the moonlight through the window. There were a variety of other items, including a most exquisite jade brooch, and an emerald choker, which I placed in the sack, listening to Agatha’s mumbled complaints as Jayes secured her with some lengths of twine.
As I turned back, I saw that he had tied her wrists behind her back, and her ankles, before leaving her on her side. We both stole out, amazed that her companion had not woken, and slipped back into our cabin.
“Smoothly done, Jayes,” I said as I doffed the black clothing and slipped into my night ware.
“Indeed sir – as the proverb says, if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.”
“What happens if she raises the alarm?”
“You were asleep by eleven, sir, while I was in my cabin reading an improving book. Will there be anything else, sir?”
“No, Jayes, that will be all. I will breakfast at eight tomorrow.”
“Very good, Sir,” he said as he slipped out.
When I joined the company for breakfast, I was shocked to see Agatha Brown and her companion sitting there, her in a blouse and skirt and her companion in a pair of rather fetching trousers and short sleeved top. Her pearls were around her neck, as if nothing had happened.
“Good morning, good morning,” I said as I helped myself to some eggs, “sleep well?”
“Very well, thank you, Mister Rhymaes,” the Brown woman said as I sat down. “I was not disturbed at all during the night – were you?”
Her companion merely shook her head and continued eating, as Beefy and Alicia came in. He was wearing a white suit and shirt, while Alicia wore a light blue summer dress with a wide hat and flat shoes.
“Going on the trip today,” I said with a light air as they sat down and helped themselves to coffee.
“I am,” Alicia said as the room slowly filled up, “Mrs DeWitt-Thomas has offered to show us some fascinating items before she and her husband leave us.
“Oh – are they departing today?”
“Yes – they maintain a townhouse here, apparently her husband runs some sort of import/export business. At any rate, we will go to the local ruins, and then come back to the boat.”
“I did not know they were so well off,” I said as I pushed a mouthful of b and e into the waiting maw.
“Oh yes – she has a priceless jade collection, apparently.”
I looked up at Jayes, who merely raised an eyebrow in response as he took my plate. He knew what I was thinking, and so did I. The boat was going to be in dock for three days – and without the planned arrival of the Pugh ladies before tomorrow, and evening’s distraction would be of great benefit.
An hour or so later, we watched as Alicia, Lady Delores, Agatha Brown and friend left with Mrs DeWitt-Thomas in a hired car. Lady Pugh was wearing a long, floral print dress with cap sleeves and a large straw bonnet, while the DeWitt-Thomas woman was like that flyer girl – what’s her name, can’t think of it right now – in a pair of tight tan breeches with wings at the side, knee length tan leather riding boots and a tight fitting jumper.
As they drove away from the dock, I heard Lady Clark say “I will retire to my room for the day,” and she set off with her maid. “Well, Beefy old sport,” I said as I turned round and lit a cigarette, “Fancy a stroll through the market place?”
“In an hour or so, perhaps,” he said as he looked over the rail of the boat at the dockside. “I need to take care of a few things first.”
“No problem, old bean,” I said as I walked off with him, “I need to discuss matters of import with Jayes anyway.” As I slipped into my cabin, I found him standing there, that look in his eyes.
“Well, Jayes,” I said as Is at down and he poured a drink, “what do you think Agatha Brown is playing at? We have her precious items, do we not?”
“Indeed Sir – I chanced to hear her discussing last night with her companion. It appears she was discovered in the early hours, untied, and then they agreed not to discuss the matter.”
“What, hush it up? But these are real pearls, and will add considerably to our coffers. Does she not miss them?”
“Possibly, Sir – I suspect the fear is greater of public rejection than of having to admit she was robbed.”
“Public rejection – but why....” My voice trailed off as a thought stuck me. “Hang on, Jayes , are you saying...”
“Indeed, Sir – Miss Brown and her companion are more inclined to the Sapphic delights. May I make a further inquiry, Sir?”
“Well I never,” I said as I shook my head. “Sorry, Jayes - you were saying?”
“I was considering what we learned of the DeWitt-Thomas couple today, Sir. With your permission, I will spend the day inquiring in the neighbourhood. If the conditions are right?”
“Good thinking, Jayes – enjoy your exploring. Now, hand me the chapeau and whangee de monsieur – I and Beefy are going to take in the sights as well.”
It must have about three in the afternoon when I returned to the boat, to find Jayes waiting with the restorative cocktail in my room. “Good afternoon, Sir,” he said as I took the glass and sat down, “I trust the day was interesting.”
“Extremely so, Jayes,” I said as I sipped the cool drink, “some very nice establishments, and a good meal at the British club. How were your excursions?”
“Most intriguing, Sir. I happened to see Mister DeWitt-Thomas, and followed him to this abode – a white fronted building on the outskirts of the town. It stands alone, but is not guarded in any way that I can see.”
“How interesting – and what do the locals say of him?”
“They speak of him in dark tones, sir – there are tales of screams from the building. I fear his talk of discipline may extend to the way he treats his household staff – one housekeeper, as far as I can tell.”
“So, what would happen?”
“I have some contacts in the area, sir, and any gains could be relatively quickly turned round. In fact, they seem to have a grudge against Mr DeWitt-Thomas – he seems to be unappreciative of unwanted attentions.”
“Very well, Jayes – when do we dine tonight?”
“That was the next thing I was going to say, sir – we have had a communication from Mrs DeWitt-Thomas to say their vehicle has broken down, so they will be staying at a local hostelry for the night.”
“Hmm – what does Sir Clive say to that?”
“I believe he sees it as an opportunity to – I believe the phrase is, live a little. At any rate, sir, there will be a cold compilation served at seven precisely, and then I believe Sir Clive is proposing several hands of a game called Texas Hold ‘Em.”
“hmm – well, in that case, I will not need to change. What time do you suggest we depart, Jayes?”
“I would suggest eleven, sir – the town will be quiet by then. I have secured the services of an automobile for the evening.”
“Very good, Jayes – now, another restorer, if you please. We have a busy night ahead of us.”
I stepped out of the dining room after dinner to see Beefy standing there, his hands on the rail as he stared out over the river.
“I see, Beefy old boy,” I said as I handed him a cigarette, “Whatever is bothering you? You hardly ate a drop tonight.”
“I’m sorry, Barty,” he said as he turned round, “It’s just that I usually hear from Alicia if she is away. Even though we got that message, I had hoped I would hear from her as well.”
“I’m sure she’s fine, Beefy,” I said as I placed a friendly hand on his shoulder. “Just enjoy the evening.”
There was a soft cough behind me, and I turned to see Jayes standing there.
“Forgive me, sir, but you did say you wished to send that telegram before you retire tonight?”
“Oh yes – some flowers for the girls for tomorrow. Come with me Jayes – I shall fill it out in my cabin.” I left Beefy standing there, looking as gloomy as a costermonger who had just lost his wares, and walked with Jayes to the cabin.
“I felt we should dress in more local garb tonight, sir,” he said as he held up a flowing white robe. “That’ll make me look like T E Lawrence,” I said as I examined the headdress.
“So long as it does not make you look like you, sir,” he said as he unfolded a cloth that covered a pair of small pistols. “Good lord, Jayes - do you expect trouble tonight?”
“Let us say, Sir, I expect problems and wish to be prepared. If you will dress, I will meet you by the car in thirty minutes.”
It was a short, quiet drive to the house Jayes had seen earlier, which only had one light glowing in a downstairs window. We had both donned Arab clothing for the occasion, and Jayes had with him the bag we use to carry those supplies we may find – useful. As we crept to the rear of the house, we could hear conversation inside.
“Strange,” I whispered to Jayes, “If I did not know she was elsewhere, I would swear that sounded like Mrs DeWitt-Thomas.”
“It does sound remarkably like her, Sir” Jayes whispered back, “but I do not believe it is her. If you will gently lift the latch, we should be able to access the kitchen that way.”
Wrapping the scarves around our lower faces, we stole into the kitchen, expecting it to be in darkness. There was, however, a dark lantern burning, and as we closed the door we could hear footsteps approaching the room.
Jayes signalled to me to stand still as he took up position behind the door, waiting as it was opened by a small, grey haired woman that I took to be the housekeeper mentioned earlier. She wore a long black scarf around her neck, which also covered the back of her head, and a long grey robe with some sort of sandal on her feet.
As she closed the door and turned, she saw me standing there, but to my surprise she did not scream out. She merely placed the tray she was carrying on the table, stood with her head bowed and said “What does my master command me?” I looked at Jayes, who stepped forward and said “Take a chair, mdbarh almnzl, and we will make sure you are not hurt.”
“As you wish,” she said as she pulled out an old wooden chair and sat herself down, placing her hands behind her back as she did so. Jayes took a length of rope from the bag, tossed it to me and knelt behind the chair, guiding the older woman’s hands together as he passed the rope around her arms. I knelt in front of her and did the same to her feet, taking care not to lift the skirt of her robe too high as I lashed them together side by side.
“We mean you no harm,” Jayes said as he passed another length of rope around her waist and fixed her against the chair back, “We merely seek your master’s valuables. Will you co-operate?”
“I will do as you command,” was all she said as I pulled her gown around her legs and tied them together above her knees. “Thank you,” Jayes said as he pulled a length of cloth from his bag, “Now, open wide, your silence is required.”
“Allah’s will be done,” she said as she opened her mouth, allowing Jayes to push a wad of cloth in and then pull the strip between her lips, forcing the gag in as he secured it at the back of her head. Satisfied, he picked up the dark lantern and motioned for me to follow him, leaving the poor woman in darkness.
“Very strange, what Jayes,” I whispered as we crept along the corridor.
“Not necessarily so, Sir – the Arabic woman are usually subject to strict codes of behaviour, no matter who asks, so long as they are male. I also suspect the DeWitt-Thomas’ code of conduct is slightly stricter than most. Which room shall we start with, sir?”
“Let’s look in here,” I said as I opened the door, but when we shone the lantern in all we saw was a selection of seats and occasional tables. We had more luck in the next room, as we found a number of display cabinets, all with statuettes lined on the shelves.
Jayes opened one and handled a small statue of a woman in his hand. “Quite beautiful,” he said as he placed it on the table. “I believe we shall find what we want here, sir.”
Well, we spent a few minutes profitably emptying the cabinets, before the sound of a door opening reached my ears. I looked to Jayes, who stood with the door very slightly ajar, watching the corridor intently.
“I thought the housekeeper was the only one here, Jayes?”
“As did I sir, but I have just seen Mrs DeWitt-Thomas walking to the front door. I fear...” He swiftly closed the door and stood to the side, indicating I should remain silent as the door opened, the light from the corridor flooding in as Mrs DeWitt-Thomas stood there.
“I know you are in here,” she said as she stepped forward, “I am armed and I know how to use this gun. Step forward and show yourselves.”
I saw Jayes nod from behind her, and stepped in the light, my hands raised in the air. “So, a common whelp,” she said as she walked forward, “I ought to shgggggg.” The strangling noise came from Jayes wrapping his arm around her throat, holding it in place long enough for her to drop to the floor.
“You’ve killed her, Jayes,” I said in a shocked whisper.
“Hardly, Sir, I simply applied enough pressure to her nerves to render her senseless. I do suggest, however, we secure her before she comes to and remove her weapon.” Tossing me a length of rope, he pulled her arms behind her back and started to bind her crossed wrists together.
“I don’t understand this,” I said as I crossed her ankles and pulled the rough twine around her leather boots, “She is meant to be out of town with the other women. If she is here, then where are they?”
“I have a theory, sir, but I pray that I am mistaken,” Jayes said as he pulled her arms together with more rope around her elbows, “In any case, we must make sure she is completely unable to raise the alarm until we have enquired further.”
“What do you think is going on,” I said as I bound her legs together, just below her knees and above her boots, then pulled her ankles back and held them in place while Jayes placed her in a very strict hogtie.
“If you will allow me, sir,” he then said as he pulled a white aviator’s scarf between her lips, pulling the corners of her mouth back, before applying a second one over her eyes. Motioning to me, we gathered the statuettes we had found into the bag, before leaving the room and looking down the corridor.
“I believe she came from that door there,” Jayes said quietly as he pointed to an open oak door further down. We quickly walked down, and stepped into some sort of trophy room, filled with Egyptian artefacts. In fact, there were four mummy cases, lined against the wall, making it look more like a mausoleum.
“What is so special about this room,” I whispered to Jayes as he looked round. “I could not say for certain, sir, but there are certain peculiarities.”
“As far as I am aware, Sir, Mummified corpses do not need to breath, and yet there are air holes drilled in the front of these sarcophagi.” I went over and looked, and sure enough there were holes drilled at regular intervals in the dark wood. There was also a banging noise coming from what seemed to be inside the wooden box.
“If you would provide assistance, sir,” Jayes said as he grabbed hold of one side of the lid. I did likewise, and together we managed to lift the top off the case, placing it to one side as we looked at the contents.
It was a female form, wrapped from toe to nose in bandages which also went over the head, but I recognised the clear blue eyes and brown hair of Lady Delores Pugh as she stared at what she must have thought were two native intruders. “HLPM” she screamed through the cloths covering her mouth and lower jaw, trying to lift herself forward as she did so.
Jayes gently pushed her back, putting his finger to the scarf over his mouth as we went and lifted the lids off the other cases. Sure enough, we found Agatha Brown, her companion and Alicia within each of the other cases, all mummified and gagged most effectively.
We turned out back to the struggling women. “Jayes, what have we stumbled into,” I said in a low whisper.
“I feared that something like this may have happened, Sir,” Jayes replied before glancing back over his shoulder. “When I talked to the local men in charge, they hinted that DeWitt-Thomas dealt in stolen artefacts, amongst other things. I fear we have stumbled across the ’other things’.”
“That’s all very well, but what are we going to do now?”
“If we can just get back to the car, Sir, I brought a change of clothing in case of emergency. We could deposit our gains, and then...”
“And then you can raise your hands where I can see them,” we hard DeWitt-Thomas say. Sure enough, there he was, standing in the doorway with a shotgun in his hand, pointing it at us.
“Two more local scum missing are not going to be noticed,” he said in an even tone as he levelled the gun at my face. “You need to be disciplined in these matters.”
He swung round to see Beefy standing there. “Listen, De-Witt-Thomas,” he said, “I came to find out if you have heard from...”
He looked past the three of us to see Alicia leaning out of the coffin, screaming through her gag and pleading with her eyes. He then turned to our friend, who stammered “I... I just found these two leaving these women here. I have no idea why....”
Have you ever been in a field, and found the only other occupant was a bull, looking at you as if you were the last person he wanted to see? That red eyed rage was exactly what I saw in Beefy now, as he grabbed the shotgun from DeWitt-Thomas and threw it to one side. The captor was a strong man, but Beefy Benson was a Blue in boxing, so it was a truly unfair match. In fact, I wanted to stay and watch the bout, but Jayes pulled me aside and ran to the display room, grabbing the bag of statuettes and jumping over the slowly awaking Mrs DeWitt-Thomas, before sprinting out of the back door and back to the car.
“I recommend we change into normal clothing, Sir,” Jayes said as he pulled the robes off himself to reveal his shirt and trousers, “and we go in the front door. You can say you followed Mister Benson to their house, seeing how agitated he was.”
“Sound plan, Jayes,” I said as I pulled my jacket on and quickly walked round to the front of the house, him following behind. “I say,” I called out as we walked in the open front door, “Is there anybody home?”
“Is that you, Barty,” I heard Beefy call out, “Get in here, I need your help.”
“What’s the matter, Beefy old bean,” I said as I walked in, stopping short and saying “Good Lord,” as I saw him helping Alicia to hop out of her mummy case. DeWitt-Thomas was laid out unconscious on the floor, while the other three women were calling out from their resting places.
“Perhaps we should help the other ladies out, Sir,” Jayes said as he followed me in, “and then I will raise the local authorities.” I watched Beefy unwrapping the bandages from Alicia’s head, revealing her long hair and the rough cloth that was in her mouth. He pulled it out, and heard her say “Thank you , darling” as we helped Lady Delores from her resting place, Jayes slowly unwinding the cloth and allowing me to ungag her.
“Mister Rhymaes,” she gasped as she spat the cloth out of her own mouth, “Thank goodness you and George here found us.”
“What happened,” I said as I helped her to stand while Jayes unwound her binding, “we heard you had been detained at the site you were visiting.”
“We never got there,” she said as Jayes finished unwrapping her, then went to help George free the other two women. “As soon as we left the boat, the horrible women held us at gunpoint, brought us here and made us stand still as we were entombed in these strips before been placed in those mummy cases. If those two men had not found us...”
“What men would they be, Lady Pugh,” Jayes said as he removed the gag from Agatha Brown’s mouth.
“I have no idea – two Arab men came in and removed the lids. They must have slipped out when George tackled that brute there. Hand me that rifle.”
As I handed her the gun, she stood over DeWitt-Thomas, pointing the rifle at him as he slowly came round. “George, his wife is somewhere round here. See if you can find her while Jayes alerts the authorities.”
“As you wish, Madame,” he said as he stepped out noiselessly, while George left the room, returning a moment later. “She won’t bother us,” he said as he went back to holding Alicia, Agatha freeing her companion as well. “She’s trussed up in another room – so is their servant. Barty, why did you come here?”
“I saw you leave the boat, and was worried you would do something stupid. Instead...”
“Instead, you did something incredibly brave,” Alicia said as she walked over. My hero.”
“Mister Rhymaes, Mister Benson, I cannot thank the two of you enough. To think we almost lost my wife to a slaver...”
“Think nothing of it, Sir Clive,” George said as he shook the magnate’s hand, me standing next to him. “It was my future wife in their clutches as well, after all.”
“I misjudged you, Mister Rhymaes,” Lady Delores said as she sat in the cabin. “I know Gladys speaks highly of you, and now I can see why. You are welcome at our home any time you desire.”
“Who is,” I heard a light voice say, and turning I saw Gladys standing there, a radiant smile on her face as Daphne stood behind her. “Hello, Barty, old thing, I did not know you would be here.”
“Be grateful he is,” her father said as she kissed him, “he has rescued your mother from a fate worse than death.”
“Coo,” she said as she looked at me and George, “You’ll have to tell me all about it. Hello Jayes.”
“Good morning, Miss,” I heard him say – he must have slipped noiselessly in with her. “Forgive me, Sir, but the local constable desires a word, and then we have the business meeting to attend.”
“Business – oh yes, the rug export. Forgive me, Sir Clive, Ladies, but I need to take care of this. Perhaps I can buy you a drink later, Gladys?”
“I’d like that,” she said as she watched us leave, the uniformed cove waiting for us outside.
“You’re joking – they fell victim to white slavers?”
I looked at Gladys as we sat on the deck, watching the sun go down.
“So it seems – strange that it was a couple of thieves that discovered them.”
“Yes, strange,” Gladys said with a smile. “Of course, you would know nothing of that.”
“OF course,” I said as the captain saluted when he passed, “what would I know of that?” We watched him walk down the deck before Gladys whispered “How much?”
“Enough,” I said as I offered her a refill from the jug. As I put the glass receptacle down, I found Gladys leaning next to me, as our lips touched.
“Thank you, Barty,” she said, “and thank you, Jayes.”
“Jayes?” I turned to see him standing there, smiling down on us. “Forgive the interruption, Sir, but Sir Clive is looking for Miss Gladys.”
“Oh cripes, I’d better be off. I wanted to tell you, Barty, that Lady DeBonneville has decided to take a tour of Europe, so the coast is clear. When will I expect to see you in London again?”
“In the New Year, old stick,” I said to her back as she hurried off. “Good news, eh, Jayes?”
“Indeed Sir – I must confess, if I may, that I am beginning to get a little tired of the heat here.”
“Jayes,” I said as I eyed him carefully, “Something else is bothering you. Out with it.”
“I merely wondered, Sir, if it was your intention to see more of Miss Pugh when we return.”
“It may be, Jayes – why?”
“No particular reason Sir,” he said, but I swore I saw the corner of his mouth twitch as he walked away. Strange man, but a good companion to have around at times.