Jayes and The Wrong Hostage
There have been occasions when Jayes, my strong right arm, and I have found need to leave the delights of the metropolis and take ourselves into the peace and quiet of the country side, to rest and to reflect. Upon some occasions it has even been known to be a voluntary action on our part, as opposed to the need to escape some unfortunate circumstances. This was just one such occasion, as I walked along the promenade at Lighton, enjoying the sea breeze in my candy striped jacket and trousers.
Jayes was in the cottage we had taken, employing his amazing skills on some sort of fish for lunch, while I surveyed the pleasures to be had in the town. I was having the time of my life – which, if I had been paying attention, should have warned me to the dark clouds that were gathering. But I was carefree, so when I heard the voice of doom saying “Bartholomew Judas Rhymaes, what do you think you are doing?” I stopped short and slowly turned round.
Regretfully, my first thought had not been incorrect. There, descending the steps of the Metropole Hotel was the gathering storm, more correctly known as Mrs Agnes Arbuthnot or in more common parlance my aunt Agnes. She was dressed, as always, in black, and as always she had a glint in her eye that spoke of much pain and suffering for young Barty.
“What ho, Aunt Agnes,” I said as I tried to put on a smile and brighten up the atmosphere, “I did not think you would be here.”
“Evidently,” she said with a glint of steel, “or else you would have answered the telegrams I have been sending you. Why are you here anyway?”
“Oh, some fresh sea air, a round or two of golf with the boys from the club, just living life.”
“And where is that man of yours?”
“Jayes – preparing a light repast for me I should imagine.”
“I don’t like him, Bartholomew – he is a bad influence on you.”
“Be that as it may, my dear aunt, he has...”
“Oh do shut up, Bartholomew. You may inform Jayes that you will be dining with me tonight at seven, and he may have the evening off. There is a matter of great import that I must discuss with you.”
“Seven, young man, and do not be late.” She walked off, her dress rustling with the noise of leaves on an autumn path, and I was left speechless for all of thirty seconds. I then went to do the only thing I could – consult Jayes.
“Yes, Sir, I must confess I had heard Mrs Arbuthnot was in the vicinity, but thought it best not to worry you unless something actually happened.”
“Well, it has Jayes,” I said as I took the w&s from him, “and now I have to suffer a night with her. What am I going to do?”
“If one must face adversity, sir, one needs to keep a clear mind and a high head.”
“Oh, who said that – Nelson?”
“No, Sir, my uncle Geoffrey. He was a man of no small talent and resource, and that was his motto on life and work in general.”
“Where is he now?”
“Retired, sir, to the Maldives I believe. He was most successful in his choice of projects.”
“Well, right now I wish I was buying your uncle Geoffrey a refreshing cocktail at the Twilight bar,” I said as I drained the glass. “While I entertain the aged rel, I need you to consider how we can replenish our coffers while we are in this area.”
“I will give it my full consideration, sir,” he said as he laid the dinner jacket out on the bed. I looked at the man – a marvel in so many ways. Little did I know how much help I would need from him in the days ahead.
“Bartholomew, I have decided it is time that you took a wife.”
I paused, the soup spoon in mid air, and looked over at Aunt Agnes as she stared back at me. Had I known this was her intention, I would have asked Jayes for one of the little restorative potions he has to hand and used it in her consommé right there and then, but alas that moment had passed.
“Yes, it is time you were married, and I have the perfect person in mind. Look at the table over there.”
I glanced over towards a table situated in the window area, and saw tow visions. One was a picture of horror – grey hair tightly fixed in a bun, high collar with a mother of pearl brooch on the front of it, a dress that would have looked out of date thirty years ago – in other words, the very mirror image of Aunt Agnes.
The other vision was one of Aphrodite. Her shoulder length brown hair fell in graceful waves across the top of her gossamer dress, the short sleeves of which lay delicately over the top of her slim, bare arms. She had clear blue eyes, and smiled as she caught and returned my glance.
“Lady Corbin,” the aged aunt continued, “is a particular friend of mine, and her companion is I believe a lady of high and impeccable repute. Her name is Gladys Pugh, and she would make a most suitable wife for you, Bartholomew.”
Placing the spoon carefully to one side, I patted my mouth before saying “I am sure she is a most beautiful young woman, Aunt Dearest, but what makes you think she would want to even go out with me? You know my reputation is somewhat indifferent amongst the ladies of my acquaintance.”
“I know you are seen as a gadabout, but that is merely a question of moulding,” Aunt Agnes said as she sipped her soup, “and she is more than capable of moulding you. Lady Corbin has taught her all that she needs to know about society.”
I watched as the two women stood up and walked out of the restaurant, noting the glance that young Miss Pugh was pushing my way. “Bartholomew, I particularly wish for this to happen,” Aunt Agnes said as the waiter took our bowls, “and soon. I have arranged for you to take Miss Pugh on a picnic tomorrow, so be here at ten sharp.”
I passed the rest of the evening with Aunt Agnes in a less that pleasant mood, before finally making my escape back to our cottage. “Jayes,” I said as I walked in, “A crisis has arisen.”
“Indeed, Sir,” he said as he appeared with the evening snifter, “May I enquire as to what the problem may be?”
“It’s Aunt Agnes,” I said as I sat down, “She’s decided to try to marry me off again.”
“Ah,” Jayes said as I took the glass, “May I enquire as to who the fortunate young woman is?”
“A Miss Gladys Pugh,” I said as I took a sip.
“Would that be the Miss Pugh who is currently employed as the companion to Lady Clarissa Corbin?”
I stared at the tall miracle worker as he stood beside me. “Great Scott, Jayes – you know her?”
“By coincidence, Sir, I correspond with her father’s manservant. He is Sir Clive Pugh, of Pugh Engineering.”
“The man who built the Humber crossing? Well now, that puts a different twist on things. Even so, Jayes, I am not ready to settle down, so I need a plan of extraction for myself. Any thoughts.”
“One, sir,” he said, and I glanced back at him with renewed admiration.
“Already, Jayes – what do you propose?”
“Well, Sir, I have been considering our situation, and the thought of visiting Lady Corbin in the metropolis when she returns the day after tomorrow had occurred to me. She is, after all, a woman of some wealth and taste. If we were to visit Her Ladyship in a more discrete manner, we may be able to find something that will allow us to find a way of extricating you from your precarious position.”
Well, I sat for a moment to allow this to sink in, before saying “You mean find something to dish the dirt on Gladys Pugh and give her the heave-ho.”
“I would have it put it more delicately, but essentially yes, Sir. It should be possible to drive there and back before midnight, without the possibility of you been missed.”
“Excellent idea, Jayes – let us proceed as you suggest. Now, I believe an early night is in order. Good night, Jayes.”
“Good night, Sir,” the stout-hearted fellow said as he slipped out of the room. That’s Jayes – always there to help when needed.
The sunset on the horizon was glowing as red as a beautiful piece of rare roast beef as Jayes and I drove towards the metropolis. In the back seat was a small back containing all that we needed, while the two of us were decked in regulation black. It was a silent journey, until we reached the street in Belgravia where Lady Corbin had her town residence. Two solitary lights were showing in the upstairs windows.
We jumped out of the jalopy and made our way round to the back of the house, Jayes making expert use of a jemmy to force open a window on the ground floor. As we slipped in, we could hear the footsteps of the servants as they completed their duties, and sat in wait for silence to fall.
“I say, Jayes, how long will it be before we move,” I asked quietly as I felt a cramp in my leg.
“Not much longer Sir – if we endure, then the reward will be greater,” he whispered as the last set of footsteps made their way up the staircase and the lights went out. We looked at each other, slipped the eye masks over our faces and let ourselves out of the room, climbing the staircase as quietly as we could.
From behind the doors we could see that two had lights burning. Jayes put his finger to his lips as we approached the larger of the two, and quietly opened it. Lady Corbin could be seen sat at a dressing table, removing whatever devices she was using from her hair to keep it in shape as it fell across the back of her white nightdress.
She looked up as she heard the door closing, and turned round. Staring at both of us, she stood up and said “What is the meaning of this intrusion?”
“Very sorry, your ladyship,” Jayes said in an accent that reeked of Brick Lane, “But we want your goodies. Now, you’re not going to give us any trouble, are you?”
“Trouble,” she almost screamed as she walked to a bell pull. I took the initiative and stopped her, grabbing her arm and making her sit on the bed as Jayes said “Now that wasn’t a clever thing to do, your ladyship. We’ll have to make sure you can’t get involved now. Hold her for a minute, Bert.”
She looked old and frail, but Lady Corbin had obviously been a boxer in her former life, because she struggled more than a turkey about to become the centre of Christmas Dinner. Somehow, however, Jayes managed to tie her hands together with a length of sheet, and pulled a second length into her mouth when she was making some particularly virulent comments about my choice of footwear.
It was that moment when we heard a voice saying “Lady Corbin? Are you all right?” I looked at Jayes, who nodded as he grabbed a pillow from the bed, removed the cover and stood behind the door.
I kept tight hold of Lady Corbin, who was still struggling like a wildcat, when the door opened and a young woman walked in. It looked like Gladys, but in the struggling my eye mask had slipped slightly over one eye, so my obscured sight only saw a young woman before Jayes threw the pillow case over her head and pulled her against him in his arms.
“Stop struggling, your ladyship,” he said, “or your young friend here gets hurt.” This finally made her stop, so I made her lie face down and tied her ankles together. Looking over, I saw Jayes pull the girl’s hands behind her back and tie them together with twine. She was wearing a pale blue dressing gown, but more than that I could not say. As Jayes pulled the case into her mouth with a length of cloth, I used another pillow case to blindfold Lady Corbin and left her on the bed while I re-adjusted my mask.
“Find ‘er jewels,” Jayes said as he dragged his captive out of the room, “and then follow me. We’re taking her as insurance.”
It only took me a few minutes to gather the jewellery – she had left it on her dressing table when we disturbed her. A quick search of what I presumed to be Gladys’ room, however, revealed no jewellery, just a little diary which I pocketed as I ran towards the front door of the house. Getting into the car, I saw a lump moving under the blanket on the back seat, and looked at Jayes. He merely nodded as he removed the eye mask and started the car.
It was close to midnight by the time we arrived back at the cottage. Fortunately, the street was deserted, so Jayes and I had no problem getting out guest discreetly into the house and into a spare bedroom we have.
“Sit down,” Jayes said in his strange accent as he pulled a wooden chair out and sat her down. As she did so, the hem of her dressing gown came up, and I could see the legs of a rather striking pair of pale blue silk pyjamas underneath.
Jayes handed me a length of rope, which I used to tie her ankles together and to the leg of the chair, while he lashed her upper body to the chair back with more rope, weaving it through the wooden lattice work and around her chest and arms. She didn’t move while all this was happening, just quietly mewled through the combination gag.
“Right,” Jayes said as we turned her with her back to the door, “I’m going to take off the hood. Don’t say a word – just open your mouth and let us silence you again. We’ll bring you some food and water later. Nod if you understand.”
The girl nodded, so Jayes removed the cloth and pillow case, before taking the side blue cord of my dressing gown and passing it twice around her head, pulling it between her teeth as he did so and tying the ends together over her long hair. We backed out of the room, leaving her to start to look around her “holiday home”.
As we looked at her, I glanced at Jayes and saw that expression on his face. The same one he used the time I suggested a withdrawal from Bailey’s bank on a Sunday morning, or the time we had to give Aunt Deborah a night she tries very hard not to remember.
“Jayes,” I whispered as she turned her head from side to side, “You have that look again.”
“That look that says you believe we – sorry, I have made a mistake. Did we or did we not get Lady Corbin’s jewellery?”
“Yes, Sir, but...”
“And did we also not take this young lady, as I presume you had planned?”
“Yes, Sir, I had anticipated Miss Pugh may interrupt us, and was prepared to bring her here. I surmised we may be able to gain financial advantage from such an arrangement.”
“You mean hold her to ransom?”
“Yes, Sir, but...”
“But me no Buts, Jayes, we have the jewellery and the girl. I will compose a gentleman’s best ransom note, and we proceed from there. No problem, no fuss, and we have a guest for a few days.”
“Yes, Sir, but...”
“Forgive me, Sir, but that is not Miss Gladys Pugh.”
“I am not quite sure how it has happened sir, but I fear we have the wrong guest.”
"What do you mean, we have the wrong girl? I tell you Jayes this is Gladys Pugh?"
"With all due respect, sir."
"She is – she has the auburn hair, the clear blue eyes, the long lost expression..."
"I entirely agree sir, but there is one thing?"
"What is that?"
"Miss Gladys Pugh does not wear glasses – her twin sister, Daphne does."
I looked through the doorway at the woman trussed in the chair, her eyes staring round the room through her wire rimmed spectacles.
"You have a point, Jayes, you have a point. What do we do about it, eh?"
“For now, Sir, I suggest we adjust our expectations and compose a note to Sir Clive, informing him we have his daughter. There is one small thing that bothers me, however?”
“And what is that Jayes?”
“Where was Miss Gladys Pugh?”
“Open wide – there.”
I slipped the spoon into Daphne’s mouth and allowed her to swallow the strengthening soup. It was now ten in the morning, and Jayes had gone to deliver the letter while I tended to our guest. I had removed her glasses and blindfolded her before taking her gag out.
“Good soup,” she said as she swallowed. “So, who are you?”
“Do you really expect me to answer that,” I said in what I thought was a Scottish accent.
“No, but you Geordies are always talkative,” she said, so I fed her another spoonful to shut her up. As she swallowed, I said “Why were you there last night? I thought your sister usually stayed with Lady Corbin.”
Daphne was silent for a moment, before saying “Can you keep a secret?”
“Well, you’re a secret here, what?”
“Ha ha,” she said, then smiled. “Gladys likes to pay surprise visits on people, so when she does that she asks me to stay with Lady Corbin. The old girl is blind as a bat, but refuses to wear glasses, so we can pass as each other.”
“I see,” I said as I heard the door to the cottage opening. I watched Daphne wriggling as I wiped her mouth. “Nice rope work,” she said as I stood up, “My compliments.”
“Get tied up often?”
“I do – Gladys and I like to play games,” she said with a smile.
“Well, then, enjoy the time,” I said as I picked up the bath robe belt. “Open wide.”
“Oh goodie,” Daphne giggled as I re-gagged her, and removed the blindfold. Taking the tray, I walked out to see Jayes standing in the hallway.
“Good Afternoon, Sir,” he said as he removed his bowler hat, “I have delivered the letter as instructed, but I was accosted on the way back by Mrs Arbuthnot. She desires to see you at 3 pm precisely at the hotel.”
“Oh lord,” I said as I sat down, “Will you be all right for the time being here, Jayes?”
“I believe I shall be able to cope, sir.”
“Any idea why she wants to see me?”
“Apparently she was bound and robbed in her hotel room last night – I believe she wishes to tell you about it.”
I stared at Jayes, while he raised an eyebrow in silent response.
“It was horrible, Bartholomew, horrible. This wretched person forced me to sit at my dressing table, bound my wrists and ankles, and stuffed a handkerchief in my mouth before taking all my jewellery. I have never felt so humiliated...”
“Worse than that time at your home?”
“Even worse than that, Barty,” she said, mot realising she had used my shortened name.
“So what did this cove look like?”
“A young man, slim, with a very soft high-pitched voice. He had a black muslin mask over his face, but I could see his bright blue eyes even behind the grey veil. Strong too, and he knew how to use rope.”
I there-there’d to the aged aunt, before making my excuses and walking out of the room. As I did so, I literally bumped into Gladys Pugh as she was walking along. I had to stop myself from expressing my surprise, but instead said “Miss Pugh – are you all right?”
“Yes, thank you, Mister – Rhymaes, isn’t it?”
“Bartholomew J Rhymaes, at you service,” I said as I raised my hat. “I say, is everything all right?”
I saw her sob as she took a handkerchief to her eyes. “I’m afraid not – you remember Lady Corbin, the woman I was sat with the other night?”
“Yes – why? What happened?”
“She was attacked and robbed in her house last night. I was lucky not to have been tied and gagged by the two ruffians as well – I hid in my room instead and waited until they had gone.”
I looked at the girl with a fresh eye. “Rough night all round then,” I said airily, “My Aunt here was robbed last night as well. It wasn’t the same man, was it?”
“I do not think so – this would have been about one in the morning. If you will excuse me, Mister Rhymaes...”
She walked off into the distance, leaving me deep in thought.
“Jayes, something is very rotten in the state of Denmark?”
“Indeed, Sir?” He stood back as he laid the plate in front of me, and I took a mouthful of the cutlet.
“Attend – I met Gladys Pugh today, and she told me she hid in her room while Lady Corbin was attacked yesterday.”
“But I remember you saying, Sir, she was not there when you checked?”
“Precisely, Jayes – and the description Aunt Agnes gave of her attacker was most suggestive as well, particularly about the eyes and the high pitched voice. I wonder...”
I looked at Jayes as he stood there, quietly attentive. “Jayes, The Agency – are there any females on their books?”
He stood there, lost in thought for a moment, before replying. “I regret to say, Sir, I cannot answer that question.”
“The Agency books are a sacrosanct document, and we are no t allowed to inform of the circumstances of other members. I can, however, make a general enquiry on your behalf if you so wish.”
“Do so, Jayes,” I said as I returned to my cutlet, “and I will attend to our guest.”
It was nearly ten by the time Jayes returned, with two pieces of information.
“I have enquired of the Agency, Sir,” he said as he walked in, “and they are unaware of any members in this area. Also, Sir Clive has agreed to our demands, and we need to make the exchange tomorrow at four in Hyde Park. If you would care to prepare the car, I will attend to our guest.”
Hyde Park in the early hours is a cold, dark place – perfect for an exchange. Jayes and I were in black, sitting waiting with Daphne Pugh sat beside Jayes in the back of the car. She was bound and trussed around the arms and chest, the dressing gown more soiled and stretched over her breasts, while Jayes looked on impassively. Eventually we heard another car draw up nearby, the headlights flashing twice.
As we go tout, Jayes holding Daphne’s arm, a door opened in the other car and a young, thin man dressed in black stepped out. He walked to meet me in the centre of the road, holding a small valise in his hand.
“You have Miss Pugh,” he said in a very high pitched voice, and I simply nodded as I signalled to Jayes to bring her forward. “Are you all right,” the young man said as Daphne came into view, watching as she nodded.
“Do you have the money,” I said as I turned back to the young man. He nodded as he handed me the valise. Opening it, I looked at the contents, then at Jayes, then back to the young man.
“This – this is not money,” I said as I took a large diamond necklace out. “This is...”
“Some of Mrs Arbuthnot’s jewellery,” he said as I saw a smile on his face. “It seems a fair exchange – something of my family for something of yours, Mister Rhymaes.”
“Who are you?”
I watched as he removed his woollen cap and the long brown hair fell down around the man – sorry, the woman’s shoulders. I looked back to see Daphne smiling, and Jayes with an eyebrow raised higher than I had ever seen it been raised before.
“I intercepted the note,” the woman said as she removed the scarf that had covered her mouth, “and realised that two robberies in the same night were too much of a coincidence. Your fame precedes you, Bartholomew Judas Rhymaes – or may I call you Barty?”
“Only if I can call you Gladys,” I said as I saw Gladys Pugh standing in front of me. “Why don’t we all repair to my apartments – I’m sure some explanations are in order.”
“It was Harkness who first taught me – my father’s manservant,” Gladys said as I handed her and Daphne a stiff bracer. Jayes was in the kitchen, preparing the bacon and eggs. “I lost rather a lot of money one year at Ascot, and he suggested a little larceny as a way to replenish the coffers.”
“I’m her cover story,” Daphne said as she sipped her W&S, “I stay the night with Lady Corbin while Glad here does her business, and we split the profits. I must say, though, being kidnapped was a whole new experience.”
“And your father suspects nothing?”
“Not a thing - but when I got back to Lady Corbin’s residence from Lighton, and heard what had happened, I made up a story that they had just let me go, and called the police. I then went home, intercepted your letter - nicely written, by the way – and planned accordingly.”
“If I may say so, Miss Pugh,” Jayes said as he carried in a tray with four plates on it, “It was a most audacious and daring plan. My congratulations.”
“Thank you Jayes – and thank both of you for taking good care of Daphs here.” She sat at the table and took a mouthful of food.
“So why Aunt Agnes?”
“Becs shwntd to mrresf.”
“Because she wanted to marry us off,” Gladys said as she swallowed. “Well, I could not let that happen – I knew who you were, I knew who Jayes was, and I put two and two together to make jackpot.”
She looked at me with her deep blue eyes. “You seem a nice enough man, Barty, but I’m not the marrying type, and right now I suspect you’re not either. Maybe one day?”
“Who knows,” I said as I sat down. “Listen – do you want to do one more thing with me just now?”
“Come back to Lighton with me tomorrow – we need to get Aunt Agnes off my back, and Jayes has an excellent suggestion based on the psychology of the individual...”
As Aunt Agnes walked down the staircase, she saw Gladys and I standing in the hotel lobby. She was just in time to see Gladys land a slap across my cheek with her kid leather gloved hand, before storming out of the hotel.
“Bartholomew? What was that about?”
“Oh hello Aunt,” I said as I rubbed my cheek. “I’m afraid Gladys does not like the idea of marrying me – I am apparently too much of a gadabout for her.”
“Hmmm,” Aunt Agnes said as she looked at me. “Yes, she is a good judge of character. A pity – she would have been good for you. Now, why did you wish to see me?”
“The police called on me today,” I said as I laid a small leather case on the table. “Apparently this was found in the Little Venice area of the city.”
I watched as Aunt Agnes opened and removed her necklace. “Ah, excellent,” she said, “Fine job by the police. Thank you, Bartholomew, for returning them.”
“Not at all, Aunt Agnes,” I said as I stood up. “Now, if you will excuse me, I need to find a tender touch to sooth my broken heart.” I walked off, slowly, letting her watch me the whole time. Jayes was outside in the car.
“Was it successful, sir?”
“A complete success, Jayes. Seeing me humiliated in public and getting her necklace back has made her as happy as... Well, as happy as she ever gets. Did Miss Pugh leave safely?”
“I saw her entering a public vehicle with her sister, Sir. I am sure she will be just fine.”
“I hope so, Jayes,” I said as I started the car. “Wonder if we will see her again?”
“’tis a wish to be devoutly consummated Sir.”
“Jayes – you liked her didn’t you?”
He had the good taste to blush slightly as we started to drive along the promenade.