Jayes to the Rescue
Touching on the subject of my man Jayes, I am often asked how such a wise and sagacious person came into the employ of a “complete idiot”, to quote my Aunt Agnes, of Bartholomew Travers Rhymaes. This, of course, shows a complete ignorance of the working arrangement I have with my gentleman’s personal gentleman, but I am aware of how many people have seen Jayes at work and tried to lure him away. Most recently, that cricketer fellow actually had the gall to offer to double his salary to come and work with him. When I discovered this, I had a word with A.J Raffles, but Jayes said that nothing would tempt him to leave my employ. Stout fellow and I have never had cause to regret the day he came into my circle.
I remember with astounding clarity the day he first appeared, which in itself was amazing given the circumstances. I had returned late one night from a little party I had thrown to celebrate Guppy Hissop’s birthday, and heard some sounds in the room of my man Harford. Looking through a small peep hole I had installed in the wall between the main room and his, I had observed him sorting through a number of my personal collection of items, obviously with a view to making some extra money for himself. If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is lack of respect for employers, so I made arrangements for him to be replaced the next morning.
The next morning, Harford attended me as if nothing untoward had happened, and I informed him I would be spending the day at the club with friends. On my way there, however, I called in on the Agency and explained the situation. They understood the situation completely, and told me that after Harford had left the building a replacement would be with me by the end of the day.
I made my way to the club, a spring on my step and a whistle on my lips, and enjoyed a pleasant lunch with Dogsmeat and the boys over several bottles of a fine Rioja. Returning to my flat that day, I was stopped at the door by the manager of my block.
“I am sorry to stop you, Mister Rhymaes, but I have some important news for you.”
I could see the uniformed cove was serious, so I leant on my cane and said “I say, Harper, what could be so important that you would stop me on this beautiful day?”
“I am afraid to say that the police have arrested your man, Harford, on suspicion of burglary.”
“You don’t say,” I replied with a shocked expression, and gave a low whistle. “So that’s what he was doing on his nights off. Is it all right if I return to my flat?”
“They recovered some of his ill-gotten gains, but he’s confirmed you knew nothing of this, so you are safe to return to your flat. I believe they will want to speak to you later today, however.”
“Of course, of course” I replied with a thoughtful expression. “Tell them to come straight up when they arrive – I will be in for the rest of the day.”
Ascending the staircase, I opened the front door to my flat and walked in. There were obvious sings that the local constabulary had visited – the size 10 bootprint on the rug for one – but there were also sounds from the living room that someone else was there. Grabbing a nine iron from my golf bag, I slowly opened the door and crept in.
A tall gentleman, in dark pinstripe trousers and waistcoat and a white shirt, was gently lifting and replacing a number of items of furniture that were scattered over the floor. I can be as silent as a cat, but he must have somehow heard me as he turned to look at me. His dark hair was short and swept back to reveal a high forehead, and he looked at me as a father does a loved son.
“Mister Rhymaes? My name is Jayes – the Agency sent me to replace your former personal gentleman. I felt it would be prudent for me to clear away some of the detritus of the visit by the constabulary before your visitor arrives.”
“I see,” I replied with a sense of admiration already for his devotion to duty. “May I ask how you managed to get in without being seen?”
Jayes turned and smiled at me, one eyebrow raised, and I realised what a stupid question that was. Smiling at my own innate folly, I asked “In that case, who is the visitor that I am expecting so soon?”
“A Mrs Arbuthnot called before you arrived, and after rather stridently asking who I was said that she would be calling tonight to have dinner with you. I believe she mentioned she had something of import to discuss with you.”
My blood nearly froze at that missive. “Aunt Agnes? Coming here? Tonight?” I slumped into the nearest armchair, letting the iron fall to the floor. Jayes silently made his way to the drinks cabinet, and as I held my head in my hands brought a large W & S over for me.
“Jayes, I feel a crisis approaching already. Do we have anything in for an aged rel?”
“I have taken the liberty, sir, of ordering some supplies for delivery in the next half hour. I will prepare a beef consommé, cutlet and suitable dessert before she arrives in two hours.”
I smiled – this cove was obviously made of exactly the right stuff. “I was wondering,” he said as I downed the snifter, “if it would be prudent to discuss my duties after Mrs Arbuthnot has left tonight?”
“Totally prudent, Jayes,” I replied, “Let’s get the first horror out of the way before we discuss other items of business.” He nodded and left the room in a way that suggested, by the lack of noise he made, his talents lay in many different directions.
That was at four, and as the clock struck six Jayes opened the door to allow entry to Mrs Agnes Arbuthnot, or as I sometimes refer to her the Hell Hound. I have made reference in past memoirs to my good and deserving Aunt Deborah, but as Jayes would say “every light casts a shadow” and the shadow to Aunt Deborah was Aunt Agnes. A tall, thin woman with hair of grey and a face that could freeze the sun at Monte Carlo, she walked into the flat dressed as always in black, and looked Jayes up and down through her pince nez.
“Hmmm – you seem more intelligent than the last man,” she said finally as she turned to me. “Bartholomew, I have a matter of great import to discuss with you over dinner.”
“Well, Aunt, why don’t we sit down and you can tell me about it,” I said as I offered her a chair. Jayes took her travelling cloak as she sat down, and silently went off to bring in the soup course. She took a sip, and raised an eyebrow – the only way I knew of her registering approval. This happy state of affairs continued over dinner, until over the liqueurs and coffee the axe fell.
“Bartholomew,” Aunt Agnes said as I sat back, “I wish you to come and spend the weekend at Somerfield with me. There is a young woman I wish you to meet.”
I sat back up again as Jayes poured more coffee. “Dearest Aunt,” I began, but Aunt Agnes held her hand up to silence me.
“No, Bartholomew, it is past time you found a wife, and I have managed to persuade Honoria that you should be considered as a possible husband. I know she has heard some strange tales about you, but I am sure these are all tittle-tattle.”
“Honoria? Not Honoria Baines, the daughter of the guy who owns Baines Apothecaries? But…. But she is…”
“What she is,” Aunt Agnes said with a voice that would (and often did) stop traffic, “Is a perfectly fine young woman who will make you a good wife. You will come this Friday, and over the weekend I am sure you will see how right she is for you.”
She stood up and took the cloak as Jayes held it for her. “I expect to see you at eight o’clock for dinner on Friday – don’t be late.” With that, she swept out of the flat as Jayes held the door open for her.
“Jayes,” I said as I sat back down, “A crisis has arisen. Are you familiar with the lady my Aunt Agnes mentioned?”
“I am indeed sir – I correspond with her personal maid. A woman of strong character and views, I am told.”
“She is that – rich as Persia, but a total horror to socialise with. This is the sort of woman my aunt wants me to marry?”
“To change the subject, Sir, would I be right in thinking you need to replenish your account in the next few days?”
I sat back in thought. The unfortunate departure of Harford had necessitated the depletion of some of my collection, and I did have some bills to pay soon. Nodding, I looked up and asked “Why?”
“I feel this presents some unforeseen opportunities. If I may offer some advice…”
“Jayes, you make a sound point, but I make the decisions of how to approach this. Understood?”
He stood back, a slightly pained expression in his eyes, and said “Of course, Sir. Shall I prepare for a weekend trip tomorrow?”
“Do so, Jayes. Now, let us discuss the rest of your duties.”
Friday evening saw Jayes and I heading out towards Somerfield, Aunt Agnes’ country residence following her marriage to the recently deceased Augustus Arbuhnot, of Arbuthnot Goldsmiths, with the fair wind in our faces and a serious expression on my face.
“If it is not a liberty, Sir,” Jayes softly said, “Do you have definitive plans for how this weekend’s events will pass.
“I do Jayes, and I assure you it will go without a hitch.”
“Even so, Sir, have you considered all the eventualities. I understand, for example, that…”
“Jayes,” I said authoritatively, “I have a plan and it will work. You know what it is and what your part is going to be. Understand?”
“Quite, Sir,” the man said and he sat in silence as we approached the mausoleum along the long drive from the gate. Stopping and alighting, the door was opened by Goldsmith, Aunt Agnes’ butler.
“Evening, Goldsmith,” I shouted as Jayes unloaded the car, “This is Jayes, my new man. Is my aunt around?”
“She is in the drawing room with Miss Baines, Mr Rhymaes. I will inform her of your arrival if you so wish.”
“No, it’s all right, I want to change first. Am I in the Blue Room?”
“Yes, Sir, this way please.”
Well, I barely had time to slip into the soup and bone before the dinner gong sounded, and without the usual bracer I approached Dinner with a sense of foreboding – one that turned out to be well placed. Honoria Baines is a striking beauty, with close curled brown hair and a large, open face, but she is also tall and powerfully built both physically and in her personality, so the dinner conversation was dominated by her. I managed to survive until the sound of the escape bell, and then retired to my home for an early night’s sleep.
“Jayes,” I said as I downed the nightcap he had brought, “Have you had a chance to familiarise yourself with the layout of the house?”
“I have, Sir. Miss Baines personal maid has been most gracious in her help in this matter, and I feel you should have little trouble tomorrow. I so still feel, however, that….”
“Not another word, Jayes,” I said as I raised my hand, “We proceed as planned. Honoria has agreed to wear some of her finest jewellery tomorrow, and we will know how to proceed from there.”
“Very good, Sir,” Jayes said as he slipped silently away.
Well, the Saturday seemed to go as slowly as a Wagner concert at the Opera House. Honoria latched onto me at breakfast, and kept working away at me throughout the day as we walked. I was in the herring bone tweed, while she wore a summer dress that shimmered as she walked around, with a chiffon scarf and a large summer hat. As I say, a beauty, but when she opened her mouth a real beast came out.
Jayes was standing by with the cocktail as I dressed for dinner.
“Pay attention at dinner, Jayes – I anticipate a most glorious night ahead.”
“Indeed, Sir. If I may suggest, a little tighter with the knot at the neck. One aims for perfect symmetry in these things.”
“And you know what part to play later?”
“I do, Sir”
“Well then, pour me into the jacket and let us begin.”
As I walked into the drawing room, Honoria was standing there in a full length green silk gown, adorned with a scarf around her neck and shoulders and elbow length opera gloves. Aunt Agnes was, for once, not dressed in black, but rather in an Edwardian dress with a high collar and lace cuffs. I swear, if I did not know her true character, then Honoria would have bowled me over there and then, as she stood there playing with the long string of pearls that lay over the front of her dress.
“You may serve dinner now,” Aunt Agnes indicated, and we sat down to a pleasant enough meal. As the coffee was brought in, I started to grab my stomach and felt a frown come over my face.
“Bartholomew,” Aunt Agnes said, “Whatever is the matter?”
“My apologies, ladies, but I feel I may have eaten something that disagrees with me. I must retire to my room – if you will excuse me?”
“Of course, Bartie,” Honoria said in her deep voice, “We have much still to discuss in the morning.”
Making my excuses, I slipped out and back to my room. Jayes had left a whisky and soda for me, as well as laying out a change of apparel and dressing gown beside a small valise I always bring for such occasions. Downing the snifter, I changed into the night clothes and checked the contents of the bag, then waited until I heard Honoria call out “Jennifer – where are you?”
Taking off my dressing gown, I retrieved a small black mask that was in the bag and slipped it over my eyes. Pulling up the collar of the shirt I was wearing, and picking up the valise, I crept out of my room and down the corridor to where Honoria’s room was, and knocked on the door.
She opened the door, still dressed up to the nines, but before she had a chance to scream at the sight of this man before her I pushed her in, turned her round and quickly pulled her scarf off from her shoulders, before using it to blindfold her. I pressed a small tube against her forehead, and said in a deep voice “Keep quiet or I shoot you.” Honoria nodded, and said with a tremble in her voice “Please, I’ll do what you say, just don’t hurt me.”
“Keep quiet,” I snarled as I led her by the arm to the bottom of her bed, and made her stand against one of the four poles. Picking up the valise, I pulled a length of soft rope and pulled her hands around the pole, crossing them and lashing the rope around and between them over the opera gloves.
“What are you doing to me?” She cried out as I took more rope and tied her arms and chest to the pole. “I told you to be quiet,” I whispered in return as I went over to her drawers and withdrew a pair of her personal items and a stocking. Moving back to where Honoria was fixed to the pole, I held her nose until she opened her mouth, then when she finally opened her mouth I pushed the cloth inside and pulled the stocking in to hold it in place, before knotting it behind her head.
“I just want your jewellery,” I said as I started to tie her feet together and against the foot of the bed, “so you stay there and you won’t get hurt.” She mewled in reply as I took the contents of her jewellery box, and the pearls from around her neck, and placed them in the valise. I took a moment or two to admire the way her body moved as she tried to wriggle out of the ropes, and the beads of perspiration that glistened on her brow under her hair. As I say, a real beauty of a body, but her attitude…
“You just stay there,” I snarled into her ear as she stood there, struggling against the ropes, before I took off my mask, placed it in the valise and slipped out of the door. Turning round in the thought of a job down well and quickly, I was rather non-plussed to find Aunt Agnes standing there, looking at me.
“Bartholomew,” she asked in her harshest voice, “Why are you slipping out of Honoria’s room dressed like that and what have you got in that valise?”
I stood there, unable to answer – I never have been bale to when Aunt Agnes takes that tone – trying to think of what I could say when a look of horror spread over her face, and a male voice with a Scottish accent said from behind me “He’s doing something I told him to do, or else I would kill him and everyone else in the house.”
Turning round, I saw a tall, well built man in dark clothing and with a stocking over his face, pointing a shotgun at me and Aunt Agnes. I stammered “Wellll…. He made me do it, Aunt Agnes!”
“No spine, that’s your problem Bartholomew. What is the meaning of this young man? I demand you tell me before I call for my butler.”
“He won’t answer you – he’s locked in the cellar with everyone except that young woman’s maid. I made sure she wouldn’t interfere before I came and talked to this wee eejit. Come with me and I’ll show you – hands behind your head!”
He motioned with his gun to the two of us, and led the way back to my bedroom. Opening the door, we were greeted with a sight rarely seen in a room I am resident in.
On the bed lay Jennifer, the maid to Honoria, staring at the two of us over a large scarf that covered the lower half of her head. Her wrists were bound together behind her back, and her ankles bound and pulled up so that they were secured to her wrists as well as each other. She was still in the black dress and white apron she wore for her job, but the top of her dress had fallen slightly to show a glimpse of the undergarments she was wearing.
“I forced her in here, and then made him got to the young woman’s room. Now all three of us are going to go to yours, and we’ll make sure you can’t raise the alarm either.”
“And if I refuse to cooperate,” Aunt Agnes asked as she peered at the masked man.
“Then,” he said as he pointed the shotgun at her, “You became the late lady of the manor. Understand?”
“Perfectly,” she replied as he forced us out and towards the master bedroom.
Aunt Agnes room was decorated in a late Victorian style, in that it hadn’t been painted for twenty years. The man pointed to a heavy wooden chair, and she sat down in it, staring at him the whole time. He then handed me a long length of thick grey rope, and said “Tie her hands to the arms of the chair, and her body to the back, and make it tight.”
“I’m sorry, Aunt, but I have to do this,” I said as I knelt beside her and passed the end of the rope around her wrist and the chair, pulling tight before passing it around and between her body and the back of the chair before tying her other wrist down.
“Yes, well, I’d hate to see you killed on my behalf,” she nodded as I passed the rope back round again and knotted it off behind the chair. The masked man then threw me another length, and told me to tie Agnes’ ankles together and to the legs of the chair. This I did, while she answered his questions as to where she kept her jewellery and how to open the safe downstairs.
Finally, he checked the way I’d tied my aunt to the chair, then took a sheet from the bed, tore it into strips and tied one large one over her eyes as a blindfold, before tying another into and around her mouth. Aunt Agnes grumbled something like “L c u rstd fr ts”, as I sat and, I have to admit, enjoyed seeing her suffering for once. “Come with me,” the Scotsman said as he took me by the arm and forced me to the cellar. Opening the door, he pushed me in where I saw the other staff members sitting, and locked the door behind us.
As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I noticed that Jayes wasn’t to be seen. “Goldsmith,” I said, “Have you seen Jayes?”
“That ruffian said he’d dealt with him elsewhere,” the butler replied as he started to pound on the door. It was several hours later, as the first signs of sunlight started to come through the window of the cellar, that I heard Jayes calling from the other side of the door.
“Mister Rhymaes? Are you in there?”
“Jayes,” I called out, “Open the door – we’ve been robbed!”
“I fear so, Sir,” he said as the lock turned and the door was opened. “I was accosted by a tall man last night, who used a cosh to render me unconscious. I have only just awoken myself.”
Rushing up the stairs, I found Honoria still tied to the bed post, her head slumped forward. I removed the blindfold and gag, as she woke up to the sight of my face. Her tear-stained cheeks showed me she had cried herself to sleep, and she hugged me as I managed to free her.
“Oh Bartie, it was horrible,” she sobbed as I patted her on the back. “All my lovely jewels taken by that madman.”
A soft cough came from the doorway, and I saw Jayes standing there.
“Forgive me, Sir, but I found Miss Baines’ maid in your room. I have taken the liberty of releasing her from her bonds, and Goldsmith is even now tending to Mrs Arbuthnot. The police have been sent for. If I may be permitted?”
As he said this, he stepped forward and caught Honoria as she fainted, and laid her on the bed. “Smooth work, Jayes,” I said as he removed the cloth from around her neck, “but where were you really last night?”
“I will explain all later Sir, when it is quieter, but everything is in place.”
It actually took some considerable time to extricate ourselves from the house, but once the police were satisfied I had nothing to do with things Jayes and I made our excuses and headed back for the metrop. As I drove on, thoughts began to occur to me.
“Do you have any idea who the Scotsman was?”
“I really cannot say, Sir, but I do know he comes in very handy on occasion.”
“I see – so Aunt Agnes thought something was wrong.”
“Yes, Sir – I perceived she was watching you as you left, and thought that perhaps I should implement the backup plan I was going to suggest just in case.”
“And what, pray tell, was that plan?”
“As I said, Sir, I correspond with Miss Baines’ personal maid – we used to work together for a previous client before we had to leave rather hurriedly. I persuaded her to let me secure her in your room, while I watched to see if you were met coming out of Miss Baines’ room. As I had suspected, Mrs Arbuthnot did appear on the scene, so it was simple for me to make it appear that you were forced to do my bidding.”
As I thought over what had happened, I knew that I had found the assistant I needed.
“Smart thinking Jayes. I presume you have the valise secreted somewhere.”
“It is in my case, Sir. If I may suggest, I know of a very confidential person who will be able to deal with and realise the value of such things very quickly.”
I nodded. Jayes was the man I needed – I could see that clearly.
“You’ve earned a bonus, Jayes. Take an additional fifty pounds for yourself.”
“Thank you very much, Sir” he said with quiet dignity and humility as we bowled down the road.