The Netterton Jewels - Part 2
Jayes and the Dark Night
Looking back on it, I guess the whole thing really began when Trixie Dee nearly ran me over outside the Antilles Club that Friday morning. If she had been looking, we would never have renewed our friendship, she would never have told me about her birthday present, and then...
Wait a minute – I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. It all really started that morning, when Jayes woke me with the morning cup of tea and paper. He entered in his usual noiseless way, placed the silver platter next to my bed and drew the curtains, letting the bright early spring light in and waking me the way a gentlemen’s gentlemen should do.
“Good morning, Jayes,” I said as I stretched and yawned, “All right with the world today?”
“As far as can be ascertained, yes sir,” he replied as he handed me the refreshing brew. “Nothing of import to note in the paper, but of course you will wish to ascertain that for yourself.”
I looked at him with a testing eye as I opened the Times. Jolly useful bloke, and invaluable at times, but there were occasions when I knew I would have to rein him in – or else there may be unfortunate ranigoozie. As I flicked over to the society page, however, something else caught my eye.
“Good lord, Jayes,” I said with a low whistle, “You will not believe this. Someone has got the Netterton Jewels!” His one response was a raised eyebrow, and a measured “Indeed, Sir?” He raised one eyebrow, and I could feel me doing the same. Lady Christina Estercote had been a friend of my mother, so I knew something of the story, especially how she had refused to reclaim the jewels when they were recovered by that Lestrade fellow some years later.
“Yes, but this time it’s happened legally. It seems they have been bought at auction by Sir David Dees, the tin box magnate. I wonder would he would want with them?”
“Possibly as a gift for his daughter, sir – I believe her birthday is around now?”
“Trixie? My god – of course, she must be of age now.” Patricia Dees, or Trixie to her friends, had been an acquaintance of mine in my youth, although my main memory of her was pigtails and lollipops stuck in good clothes. “I did not know you were familiar with the Dees family?”
“My aunt is the cook for their country residence, sir. May I ask your plans for today?”
“I think the bath, dressed and then I will spend the day at the club. Why do you ask?”
“If it is agreeable to you, sir, I have been asked to attend a meeting at the agency this lunchtime. As you will be doubtless be dining at the Antilles, I hope that will not be inconvenient.”
“Not at all, Jayes, not at all. Now, show me to the hot water.”
I passed a pleasant enough day, with a nice lunch topped up with a bottle of Chianti, and stepped out of the door of the Antilles without a care in the world. That soon changed as I walked two steps further, as a sound like a foghorn going off and the screeching of brakes made me step back.
“Watch where you’re going you... My God, Barty Rhymaes!”
The voice belonged to an angel in white, sat behind the driving wheel of a small car with a chiffon scarf around her neck. She had long, light brown hair and smiled as she said “Don’t you recognise me – Trixie?”
“Trixie? Trixie Dees? My goodness, you’ve blossomed. How are you, old fruit?”
“All the better for seeing you, young sirrah. How long has it been?”
“Far too long, pipsqueak,” I said as I sauntered over, only to be stopped by the sight of the ring on the middle finger of her gloved hand. It was pure gold, with a large diamond set in the centre, and I could not stop myself whistling.
“Nice, isn’t it?” Trixie said as she looked at me. “Daddy got me a set of jewellery for my birthday, and this is the only thing he’ll let me wear in public. The rest is locked in the strongbox at our house.”
“I read something of that in the papers today,” I said as I looked at it closely. “aren’t you afraid it would be stolen?”
“Don’t be silly – who would want to take it? Anyway, now that I’ve bumped into you, or nearly have, tell me you are free this weekend. I’m having a house party, and I’d love for you to come and join us.”
“Won’t your father have something to say about that?” I remembered the last time I saw him, after an unfortunate encounter in his study involving a cigar.
“Oh don’t worry about him – I’ll see you Friday. We dine at eight sharp.” With that, she waved and smiled as she drove off into the distance. I walked home, lost in thought, until a soft cough alerted me to the fact I had walked back into the flat.
“Is everything all right, Sir,” Jayes said as he handed me a Whisky and soda. “Hmm – oh yes, no problem Jayes. We have been invited to spend the weekend as a guest of Lady Patricia Dees at her country house. Can you arrange the usual suitcase for the trip.”
Jayes looked at me with a concerned gleam in his eye. “Forgive me, Sir – did you say we were invited to Dees Manor this weekend?”
“Yes – why, don’t you wish to see your aunt?”
“Of course, Sir. It is just that I know that this weekend is one where Sir David Dees may be preoccupied with other matters.”
“The expected lunar eclipse.”
I nodded – for a moment, I’d forgotten Dees was obsessed with astronomy. “Jayes – a thought has struck me. Are you ready to attend?”
“If I can be of service, sir?”
“How unfortunate would it be if those jewels were to disappear again? We do need more funds, and...”
“It would be most difficult, sir.”
I looked at him as he stood there, and asked him what he meant by that.
“Forgive me Sir – as a result of my meeting this lunchtime, I have been asked to attend the final testing of a new recruit to our profession. I may need to request a short leave of absence this Saturday, but if that is not possible...”
“You mean you cannot help me?”
“Not if you plan it for this Saturday, sir.”
“Very well then – we will discuss this further later. Leave me for the moment, Jayes - I have much to consider.”
“Very good, sir,” he said as he walked silently off. Part of the agreement I have with the agency is to allow him time to help them occasionally, but it was damned inconvenient all the same.
Naturally enough, it was imperative that Jayes and I got to the Dees Manor on time, and naturally enough the jalopy picked that day to take a holiday in terms of working. As it was, I barely had time to wash before the dinner gong sounded, and I had to attend to the dinner table in soiled clothing.
I nodded to Trixie, who giggled at my state of apparel, and also to her father. Sir David looked at me as if I had just been scraped up from the pavement before returning to his soup. Lady Dees talked to me as I played catch up, so the evening did not pass too unpleasantly, As the elders left the room, I turned to ask Trixie the question that had bothered me all night.
“Where is everyone else?”
“Oh, they’re coming tomorrow – I thought you would appreciate the opportunity to see something without them. Come with me.”
She took me by the hand and led me into a room where I knew her father kept his collection of silver. The soft blue silk of her dress made a pleasant sound as it moved in the breeze from the open window as she stopped in front of a large metal safe.
“Daddy does not know I discovered the combination, but you need to close your eyes,” she said with a giggle. Well, I am a gentleman, so I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the tumblers turning and then the creak of the door opening. “You can look now,” she said, and as I opened my eyes I was astounded to see the finest collection of jewellery it had ever been my pleasure to see in any capacity.
“By my Aunt Agnes – are those...”
“Oh yes – these are the Netterton Jewels.” Trixie picked up the diadem and placed it on her hair. “It really suits me, doesn’t it?” I had to admit, the sunlight through the open window was glistening in a way that really caught my eye, and made my mind race, but I managed to control myself. “Better put it back, Trixie old bean,” I said with a smile, “You never know what sort of person could be looking through the window.”
As she put it back, I was surprised to see a frown cross the young girl’s face. “What’s the matter, old fruit?” I said with a concerned air.
“Oh, Barty,” she said as she turned to look at me, a tear on her damson cheek, “If only you knew. Daddy has been so generous, and I can’t, I can’t...” Well, when one seeks to be a Chevalier, one has to respond with Noblesse Oblige, so I held her and muttered “there, there” until she looked up.
“Barty, I’m in a spot of bother – can you help me with a little job. It would be so simple...”
Coco looked up from the book. “I have often wondered what became of young Mister Rhymaes. I don’t suppose you have any information?”
Madame X smiled. “I do know a little more, but that is a story for later. Please, read on.”
“Anything I can do, my dear girl, anything at all.”
“Barty, I need you to steal my jewels.”
“Trixie, I’m not a thief, how can I...”
“Not for real, you daft sausage. I need to raise some money to pay off a debt – some wrong choices at Ascot – and the easiest way is for the jewels to disappear tonight. You can come down, open the safe and hide them somewhere, then when the insurance pays up quietly return them to me.”
“Trixie, you don’t know what you ask. What about your father and the others?”
“Oh, they’ll be out of the way, either asleep or for Daddy upstairs. IT would only take a moment.”
“And how, pray tell, did the burglar get the combination?”
“He forced me to give it to him, before making sure I could not raise the alarm.”
“I see – and how do you propose that happened?” Actually, I already had an idea how this would happen, but I let it slide for the moment as Trixie laid out her idea.
As I dressed for dinner that night, following my conversation with young Trixie, I laid out the situation to Jayes.
“I know you are busy tonight, Jayes, but I think I can take care of this for certain. I take the jewels, arrange for good copies to be made while I hold them for Trixie, and then return the copies. Simple, effective, and it will not cause me a problem. Do you agree?”
As I looked up from the bath, I heard a slight cough, a sign that Jayes had a problem with the plan. “There is something you find wrong with the suggestion?” I asked with a light air.
“Not as such, sir,” he replied, “but there may be difficulties. For one thing, a burglar may take the opportunity to visit the other young ladies here tonight, in particular Miss Gresham – she is known to have a fine collection of pearls that she takes everywhere for her.
“I have not forgotten Hillarie Gresham, Jayes – she is a topic for another night. What else do you object to?”
“It is hardly my place sir...”
“Well, sir, you may only have a short window of opportunity, and I fear the weather forecast for tonight...”
“What has that to do with it, Jayes – I do not propose to venture out.”
“Jayes, I propose you leave me to my plans, and you deal with your own task. Do we have an understanding?”
“Enough then – lead me to the formal wear, Jayes, and then you may be about your business.”
“Yes, sir. Very good, sir.”
Well, the dinner was passable if a little dry, but the conversation was anything but. Trixie was as bright as a button, and even her father condescended to acknowledge that I was there. As for the young Miss Gresham, she was there with her pearls around her thin white neck – definitely a person to consider for a future visit.
Eventually, Sir David gave the nod and the ladies stood to depart. As Trixie passed me, she leant over and whispered “Midnight” in my ear. I smiled, turned to the port and engaged the other bright young things in conversation.
Eventually, I yawned and excused myself, saying that I intended to retire for the night. It only took me a few minutes to reach my room, although on the way I passed Sir David on his way to the roof.
“Off to the old star watching?” I said as we passed. He nodded, mumbling something about cloud cover as he made his way along the corridor and I walked in the opposite direction. Entering my room, I found that Jayes laid out both night raiment and suitable clothing for later before he had left. A solid person, Jayes, and I found myself thinking that I wished he had been there that night. As it was, however, I donned the regulation black clothing, followed by my dressing gown with a cravat over my neck, and made my way across to Trixie’s room.
On my way, I passed by the Gresham woman’s domicile, and thought I heard the signs of someone arguing inside. Dismissing it from my mind, I knocked softly on the door and waited until Trixie said “Come in, Barty.”
I slipped in to find Trixie sitting on her bed, dressed in a long white nightdress with lace borders and a cream silk dressing gown over her body. “Barty, I can’t thank you enough for doing this,” she said in an excited whisper as I sat down next to her.
“Are you sure this is what you want me to do, Trixie,” I said as I held her hand, “after all, you are the one who is going to be inconvenienced.”
“Don’t be so silly, Barty, of course I’m safe with you,” she said with a smile, but when there was a knock on the door. Putting her fingers to her lips, she hustled me into her cupboard and closed the door. As she went to answer the knock, I listened carefully.
“Why, Daddy – I thought you were staying up tonight.”
“Damned cloud cover – I can’t see a thing. I just wanted to say good night before I go back to the library and look into a relaxing book before retiring.”
“All right, daddy, good night.”
The bedroom door closed, and Trixie allowed me to climb out. “Oh gosh, Barty – what do we do now?” she said with a quiver. “Worry not, Trixie my young fruit – I just need to wait for a while before going down. If you wish, we can meet again in a short while...”
“No,” she said firmly, “We need to do this now or not at all. You’ll just have to keep me company and talk until later.” She handed me a long length of satin cloth and turned her back to me. “Let’s get started, Barty – and be gentle with me please.”
“You’d better give me the combination first, in case we get interrupted again.”
“All right then,” she said as she walked over to her writing table and noted the numbers down on a sheet of paper. “Make sure you destroy this,” she said as she handed me the note. “After all, I don’t want you to get into trouble.”
“Trixie, you silly eggcup, that is the last thing on my mind,” I said as I took the belt. “Now, let me take care of you for you.” I crossed her wrists, admiring the smoothness of her skin as I did so, and was about to begin when there was another knock on the door.
“What now,” Trixie said as she stood up and walked to the door, forgetting I was still there. “Yes, D...” she started to say as she opened the door, only to be confronted by a young man in a brown jumper and trousers, pointing a gun at her as he stared over his brown muffler with his blue eyes.
“Inside,” he said as he motioned with his gun, and Trixie backed up to allow the masked intruder to come in. Naturally, I made pretence of going to disarm him, only for him to point the gun at me and order me to raise my hands. He saw the belt lying on the bed, and said in a muffled accent “Bind her hands – we’re going for a walk.”
“What is the meaning of this,” Trixie called out, with genuine fear in her voice, but the masked man merely pointed the gun and waved it in a manner that indicated he meant business. I should know – I’ve done it myself often enough. Still, I managed to shake my hands enough when using the belt to bind her wrists behind her to convince Trixie I was scared too.
“Move,” he said as he pointed to the open door, and I took Trixie by the arm as we left the room. Walking down the corridor, we stopped outside another door as it opened and a tall, round shouldered man came out. Through the open doorway, I could see Hillarie Gresham securely bound to a chair, her eyes wide over the thick cloth that covered her mouth as the man pocketed a long velvet case in his coat.
“Do you know the combination to the safe,” the man said in a very broad Norfolk accent, and Trixie quietly nodded. “Tell him,” he snapped, and with genuine tears in her throat she recited the numbers I had seen her writing down on the paper. He opened the door again, wider this time, and I could see two maids also bound and gagged on the floor, and a larger older woman that I took to be Jayes aunt lying on the bed. “I’ll keep her with me – you take him to the men when you’re done,” he grunted as he pulled Trixie in, closing the door behind him to the sound of muffled cries for help.
“Move,” the man said as he poked me in the back with his gun, and we made our way back to the silver room. He waited as I opened the safe door, before binding my own wrists behind my back and making me watch him put the cases containing Trixie’s present in the small bag he had slung over his shoulder. A number of other items and piles of money followed, before he forced me to stand up and marched me towards the cellar. Opening the heavy oak door, I could dimly see several men inside before he pushed me in and locked the door behind me.
“Is that you, Mister Rhymaes?” I heard Sir David say, and I answered in the affirmative. “What have they done with Trixie,” he asked.
“They’ve taken her and the other women into Miss Gresham’s room by the looks of things – there was a second man who took her before I was forced to help them.”
“What did they take?”
“The contents of your safe, I’m afraid, Sir David – including the jewels.”
“Dammit,” I heard him swear under his breath, as I walked into the room. “I say, can anyone untie my hands,” I asked, and one of the footmen made his way over to release me. “What happened anyway?”
“The tall cove stopped me as I came into the library, and forced me in here,” Sir David said as my eyes adjusted to the light. “They’ve been rounding everyone up since. Where’s that man of yours anyway?”
“Jayes? He wanted the night off – some private business. With luck, he will be back by the morning.”
“The morning!” I heard him say. “God help us from the modern man – come on, let’s see if we can get the door open from this side.”
Well, the efforts were futile, and it was just as sunlight was creeping into the small windows that we heard a respectful knock on the door.
“Sir David? It is Jayes – I returned to find the front door open and no sign of anyone at large. Are you in there?”
“Jayes – what is preventing the blasted door from opening?”
“I fear a heavy beam has been lodged under the handle. If you will give me a few moments?”
We could hear the sound of wood dragging on stone, before the door opened and Jayes stood there, calm and as if nothing had happened.
“My apologies again, sir. Perhaps I should see if I can find the other servants?”
“You might want to try Miss Gresham’s room, Jayes. One of us will call for the proper authorities.”
“Very good, sir. I will return forthwith to provide whatever support I can.”
Several days later, I was relaxing in my flat as Jayes brought the evening cocktail, reading a missive I had received that afternoon. He stood by as I placed the sheets of paper on the desk.
“Quite a tale young Trixie tells, Jayes – that man stayed with them for hours after he bound her feet, only slipping out when the other young rascal re-appeared. They had all fallen asleep exhausted – even your aunt, by all accounts – when you went into the room to free them that morning.”
“She speaks very highly of your tact and discretion, Jayes, as well as your prompt actions on freeing them.”
“One always endeavours to provide satisfaction in one’s work, sir – A thought I hope I have conveyed to young master Thomas.”
“Thomas – the young lad you were watching that night?”
“Indeed, sir – he took particular delight in binding young Miss Gresham as I watched, having observed me in action earlier.”
I stopped, the cocktail glass near my lips, and slowly turned to Jayes as he stood there.
“As he bound – great Scott, Jayes, that masked hoodlum was your Thomas, which means...”
“Yes, sir – I must apologise for the subterfuge but it was absolutely essential you had no knowledge of the fact that Dees Manor had been selected for young Thomas’ final test, or indeed that I would also be present. A necessary stratagem, to ensure you would not attempt to assist in an examination that has to be tackled alone.”
“Then you were the round shouldered Broads man?”
“Yes, sir – I have often has it commented that my mastery of accents is a gift well bestowed.”
“Indeed, Sir – it was felt appropriate that I take that role, to ensure young Thomas had full opportunity and also that other plans I had laid came to fruition. I am pleased to say that all went well, and his mother in particular is very proud of how he carried himself.”
“My aunt, sir - young Thomas is one of the bellboys at Dees Manor. She was most willing to partake in the evening’s events, if it ensured his chances of passing. Indeed, she insisted she was secured first to ensure the co-operation of all parties.”
“I must say, Jayes, this does seem to run in your family a bit. I do have one question, though?”
“I promised Trixie I would get her out of this mess she is in, and with the Netterton Jewels gone, I see no way of doing so.”
“Ah yes – I neglected to mention that while young Thomas secured all he had intended to, and also that he had arranged to be on holiday at the time, he passed certain items on to me. If you will excuse me sir?”
He slipped silently out of the room, returning with a small collection of velvet boxes. On opening one, I saw again the diamond encrusted tiara Trixie had shown me that day.
“Jayes, I stand in awe of you. What do you propose?”
“Your stratagem of the time, while regretfully unable to be performed, has merit, Sir. May I suggest we make use of our friends in Cheapside to arrange a discreet set of replacements be made, and then...”
“Say no more, Jayes,” I said as I closed the box. “Do what needs to be done, and then deposit the items safely.
“Very good, Sir,” Jayes said with a bow as he walked silently out of the room, carrying the boxes with him.
“As you have seen,” Penelope said as Coco closed the book, “the jewels disappeared for some considerable time again. Patricia Dees never discovered she had been given beautiful replacements rather than the real jewels, and the real jewels became part of the Rhymaes private collection, only resurfacing in the early 1960’s in a private auction.
“From then, there has been only one recorded occasion of the jewels been taken, although of course there have been many reported attempts and false claims.”
“I vaguely remember that one – I was only a little girl at the time. An actress, wasn’t it?”
“Indeed,” Madame X replied as she sipped her brandy, “One Debbie Sweetlove, a young actress from the Ealing area. I know this story because – well, I heard it from the horse’s mouth, if you like.”
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