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Authors: Dornford Yates

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Red In The Morning

BOOK: Red In The Morning
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Copyright & Information

Red In The Morning

 

First published in 1946

© Estate of Dornford Yates; House of Stratus 1946-2011

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

 

The right of Dornford Yates to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.

 

This edition published in 2011 by House of Stratus, an imprint of

Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Fore Street, Looe,

Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.

 

Typeset by House of Stratus.

 

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.

 

 
EAN
 
ISBN
 
Edition
 
 
1842329790
 
9781842329795
 
Print
 
 
0755126998
 
9780755126996
 
Kindle
 
 
075512720X
 
9780755127207
 
Epub
 

 

This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author’s imagination.

Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.

 

 

www.houseofstratus.com

About the Author

 

Born ‘Cecil William Mercer’ into a middle class Victorian family with many Victorian skeletons in the closet, including the conviction for embezzlement from a law firm and subsequent suicide of his great-uncle, Yates’ parents somehow scraped together enough money to send him to Harrow.

The son of a solicitor, he at first could not seek a call to the Bar as he gained only a third class degree at Oxford. However, after a spell in a Solicitor’s office he managed to qualify and then practised as a Barrister, including an involvement in the Dr. Crippen Case, but whilst still finding time to contribute stories to the
Windsor Magazine
.

After the First World War, Yates gave up legal work in favour of writing, which had become his great passion, and completed some thirty books. These ranged from light-hearted farce to adventure thrillers. For the former, he created the
‘Berry’
books which established Yates’ reputation as a writer of witty, upper-crust romances. For the latter, he created the character
Richard Chandos
, who recounts the adventures of
Jonah Mansel
, a classic gentleman sleuth. As a consequence of his education and experience, Yates’ books feature the genteel life, a nostalgic glimpse at Edwardian decadence and a number of swindling solicitors.

In his hey day, and as testament to his fine writing, Dornford Yates’ work often featured in the bestseller list. Indeed,
‘Berry’
is one of the great comic creations of twentieth century fiction; the
‘Chandos’
titles also being successfully adapted for television. Along with Sapper and John Buchan, Yates dominated the adventure book market of the inter war years.

Finding the English climate utterly unbearable, Yates chose to live in the French Pyrenées for eighteen years, before moving on to Rhodesia (as was), where he died in 1960.

 

‘Mr Yates can be recommended to anyone who thinks the British take themselves too seriously.’ - Punch

 

‘We appreciate fine writing when we come across it, and a wit that is ageless united to a courtesy that is extinct’ - Cyril Connolly

Dedication

To

JILL

for her great heart

1
We Make an Enemy

 

It was, I remember, in the summer of 193— that Jenny (my wife) and I had taken a villa at Freilles and that Jonathan Mansel was spending some days with us. Freilles was a little resort some thirty miles north of Bayonne on the Bay of Biscay. It was simple and quite unspoiled, but its sands were the finest for bathing I ever knew: they were broad and firm and they sloped very gently seaward without any ‘steps,’ thus making smooth the path of the great Atlantic rollers, that came prepared to do battle and played a pageant, instead.

How we three came to be there, I need not say; but Mansel and I were both tired and were glad to take it easy and, so to speak, put up our feet. Carson and Bell, our servants, were taking their ease with us, and, indeed, our quiet establishment was more like a rest camp in warfare than anything else.

And then, one summer evening, without the slightest warning, we found ourselves involved in a matter of life and death.

This was the way of it.

Some friends of ours in Biarritz had learned that we were at Freilles, and nothing would satisfy them but that we should drive over one evening, to dine and dance. And so we did – and, against all expectation, enjoyed ourselves very much. We finished the evening at the Casino – in fact, in the Baccarat Room, for, though Mansel cared little for playing, he liked to observe the company gathered about the board. We stayed for about an hour, and Jenny, because she knew nothing, won seventeen thousand francs – to her own great confusion and everyone else’s delight. The party then broke up, but, since somebody staying at Bidart was short of a car, we sent them back with Jenny and asked the latter to meet us a little way off; for, after the airless card room, Mansel and I were glad of a chance to walk.

Mansel spoke to the servants.

“Drive to the lighthouse,” he said, “and wait for us there. It’s under a mile and a half, so we ought to be there very nearly as soon as you.”

So the Rolls went off with Jenny, who would, I fear, have preferred to walk with us, while Mansel and I set out for our rendezvous.

To reach the
phare
or lighthouse, we had to walk the length of the
plage
and then up a fairly long hill: at the top of this we should have to turn to the left and on to the spur or headland on which the lighthouse stood.

There was nobody by the
plage
, but Biarritz keeps late hours and, when we came to the hill, more than one villa was lighted and cars were moving or were waiting by the side of the way.

We were halfway up the hill and were almost abreast of a car which was facing us and had been drawn close to our kerb, when its driver struck a match and lighted a cigarette. And so we both saw his face…

I had not seen him for years, but I knew him at once – and so did Mansel. He was a man called Punter, a common thief; and twice we had come up against him in days gone by. He had not worked alone, but had made one of a gang which knew no law. And since the fellow was incorrigible, I had no doubt at all that he was at this moment subscribing to some iniquity.

As we moved clear of the car, I felt Mansel’s hand on my arm.

“Did you see who that was?” he breathed.

“I did,” I whispered. “He’s going a little grey.”

“But he’s just the same,” murmured Mansel; “let’s loiter here for a moment.”

The wall which we had been skirting had come to a sudden end, or, rather, had turned at right angles away from the road. We left the pavement and stood behind the corner it made.

Mansel continued quietly.

“Just the same washout. Must have his cigarette – so he gives a first-class close-up to a couple of passers-by. I wonder who he’s working for now. And when I say ‘now,’ I mean it. I’ll lay there’s something doing within those walls.” He glanced at the villa, standing within its garden, right upon the edge of the cliff. “No lights to be seen: but Punter is sitting, waiting, outside its door. And the engine of his car is running…”

With his words, came the sound of a shot – the roar of an automatic: it came from within the villa, by which we stood. We heard it, Mansel and I; and Punter heard it, too – for, as we leaned out of our cover, to glance at the car, his cigarette came flying out of his window, to lie and glow where it fell in front of the door in the wall.

Now I had fully expected that the shot would herald the departure of Punter’s friends: and so, I imagine, had he: but thirty seconds went by, yet no one appeared.

Again Mansel spoke in my ear.

“Big business, this, I fancy. I don’t propose to intrude, but, just for old times’ sake, we might put a spoke in his wheel. Literally. I mean, those rods are waiting.”

I had but to follow his gaze, to see what he meant.

A street lamp was lighting the spot by which we stood – by the garden wall of the villa in which the shot had been fired. Here building was being done, and a number of soft-steel rods – to be used in ferro-concrete – were lying by the side of the pavement, three paces from where we were. In a flash I had picked one up…

(In that instant, I well remember, the Rolls went by – on her way, of course, to the lighthouse, a quarter of a mile ahead.)

I glanced up and down the hill, but no other car was moving, and the nearest that I could see was a hundred yards off. I moved out into the road, holding the rod in my hands, as a tightrope dancer holds his balancing pole. I stopped when I was abreast of Punter’s near hind wheel. Then I ‘fed’ the rod to Mansel, who took its end and passed this between the spokes – or, to be more precise, through one of the gaps in the disc of the modern wheel. So for, perhaps, five seconds… Then Mansel lifted his hand, as a signal to stop, and whipped like a shadow itself to the opposite side of the car. Almost at once his hand went up again, and again I ‘fed’ the steel to his capable hands. When he gave me the signal to stop, some seven feet were protruding from either side of the car.

I bent the steel at right angles and stepped behind the boot, and Mansel did the same and handed his end to me. I twisted the two together and laid them down. Then I followed him back to our corner, beside the wall.

We waited, I suppose, ninety seconds – it may have been less. Then the door in the wall was opened, and I saw the flash of a torch.

Three figures whipped out of that door, over the pavement and into the waiting car; and from the villa behind them came shouts and cries.

As a door of the car was slammed, the car seemed to jar and shudder; and that was all.

“Your handbrake, you—!” screeched someone.

Punter used his self-starter and opened his throttle wide, but the car only jarred again, and its engine stopped.

With a frightful oath –

“Out and break,” snapped the man who had spoken before.

The uproar in the villa was growing.

As Punter made to get out, some object flew out of the villa and struck his door – I afterwards found that this was a log of wood – and we heard the man yelp with pain, because, I suppose, the door had returned upon him and had jammed his hand or his leg.

The next moment the car was empty.

Where the other two went, I did not see, but Punter went down the hill and one man flung up past us with a case in his hand. He never saw us in the shadows, but he saw the half-finished building and whipped inside. A moment later he emerged, but without his case, and turned up the hill again, running on the tips of his toes. Twice I had seen his face clearly, thanks to the street lamp’s light. To my great surprise, it looked the face of an idiot – at any rate, that of a very foolish man: only, the eyes were burning.

Logs were being hurled at the standing car. Then a man in dress clothes appeared, with a log in his hand.

“Come back, Toby, you madman!” cried someone in French.

The man slammed his log through a window and peered inside.

“They’re gone,” he roared, in English. “This car’s a decoy. They left it here, to fool us: and now they’re two miles off.”

Thus reassured, the others came pouring out – men and women and servants, English and French. Some ran, I think, for the police, and others to telephone; but Mansel stepped out of the shadows and up to the man called Toby, still standing with his log in his hand.

“Well, Toby,” I heard him say.

“By —, Jonah,” said the other. “And here’s a go.”

“I know,” said Mansel. “Come over here, will you? I want to say a word in your ear.”

They came to where I was standing, and Mansel introduced him as Captain Toby Rage.

“Now get this, Toby,” said Mansel, “I am not on in this scene. French police investigation is bad for my heart. But we two saw some of what happened, and if you look in that building, I think you will find ‘the swag.’”

“Go on,” said Toby, incredulously.

“I think so. I think it’s been parked there – something certainly has. Now if I am right, the wallah that parked it there is going to come back: so if you play your cards carefully, you’ll not only get ‘the swag,’ but you’ll get him, too.”

“But they had two cars,” cried Toby.

“No, they didn’t,” said Mansel. “That was their car. But they couldn’t drive it away, for we put it out of action as soon as we heard the shot. Was anyone hurt?”

“Butler shot dead,” said Toby. “I saw it done.”

Mansel shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s up to you,” he said. “The stuff is in that building. The — big shot put it there, before he retired. And if it’s at all worth having, he’ll come back to pick it up.”

Toby set a hand on his arm.

“Help us to get him, Jonah. I mean, this is right down your street.”

Mansel shook his head.

“Sorry. The police are too tiresome. I don’t want to be involved. Remember that Toby. You’re not to let me in. Damn it all – if you’re careful, you can’t go wrong.” He turned to me. “Come, William.”

We bade Toby Rage goodnight and turned up the hill.

“Did you see the — big shot?” said Mansel.

“Clearly,” said I.

“Queer-looking cove, isn’t he?”

“You know him?” said I.

“I know who he is,” said Mansel. “I thought it was he the moment I heard his voice. I got in his way once – a few years back. My cousins and I, between us, prevented him from acquiring some eighty thousand pounds.”

I swallowed before replying, for exaggeration is not among Mansel’s faults.

“I don’t suppose,” said I, “he remembers you in his prayers.”

“That,” said Mansel, gravely, “would be too much to expect. Still, it was nice to see him again – and nicer still to have put a spoke in his wheel. And if Toby Rage does his stuff, he ought to go down the drain. And it’s just about time he did – he’s a devilish dangerous man. You see, he’s one of those felons – happily, very few – who are ready to go all lengths. That is why he has lasted so long. Audacity always pays. It was almost certainly he who shot the butler dead. If death will assist such a man, then somebody dies.”

“And he looks,” said I, “he looks a full-marks fool.”

“I know,” said Mansel. “A most extraordinary thing. Yet, he’s right at the top of his calling, and always was. Thieves call him ‘Auntie Emma’ – of all strange sobriquets. His real name is Daniel Gedge, and he must be about forty-five.”

“Just as well he didn’t see you,” said I. “I mean, he’d have known at once that he had you to thank for his failure to get away. And his eyes betrayed his emotion – you can’t get away from that.”

“Just as well,” said Mansel, and left it there.

At the top of the hill we turned to go down to the lighthouse, and two or three minutes later we rounded a bend to see the lights of the Rolls.

I must make two things clear. First, in front of the lighthouse there was an open space in which, despite the trees, there could have been parked some fifteen or twenty cars: the spot was in fact a public belvedere, from which a man could survey the whole of the Biarritz
plage
. Secondly, the lantern of the lighthouse had been at work since dusk, and every so many seconds its beam swept round, to search the neighbourhood. (The beam had hardly illumined the hill up which we had come, for the buildings upon our left hand had stood in its way.)

We were, perhaps, eighty yards off, when the lantern’s beam came round, to show the Rolls facing our way and Carson standing beside her – with his arms not folded but crossed, his right wrist over his left.

Mansel and I stopped dead. Though we could not see the pistol, we knew it was in Carson’s right hand.

“And here’s trouble,” breathed Mansel. “Gedge has come by this way.” His hand went up to his chin. “He must have recognized Carson, and Carson has recognized him. And he knows that where Carson is, I shall very soon be.”

“And he knows,” said I, “he knows why his car wouldn’t move.”

“More,” said Mansel. “He knows that to return for his plunder would be the act of a fool.”

I bit my lip.

“He’s waiting for you,” I said.

“I imagine so,” said Mansel. “I mean, his emotions apart, he’d be very well advised to put me out. You see, inside the villa he was almost certainly masked: but I can identify him.” He sighed. “And Jenny sitting there waiting… I hope to God she’s asleep.”

Mercifully, though we could see, we could not be seen, for some trees which were growing beside us were thick with leaves, and the beam could not pierce the cover their branches gave. But ten paces farther on this came to an end.

I tried to think what we could do.

We always carried a pistol within the Rolls; but Carson would never have drawn it, unless some considerable danger had lifted its head. He, of course, knew nothing of what we had seen and done: but he knew that Gedge was at hand, and that was enough for him. That he did not know where he was was perfectly clear, for whenever the beam came round, I saw his head slowly turning, as though to miss no movement which might give his man away.

“You go back,” said I, “and let me go up to the car.” But as I spoke, I knew what the answer would be.

“Not on your life,” said Mansel. “He is expecting me – and he hasn’t seen me for years. Remember, this light is tricky. And though he mayn’t be quite certain, he’ll play for safety – and shoot. And Carson is in very great danger. Gedge can, of course, see him; but he can’t see Gedge.”

BOOK: Red In The Morning
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