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Authors: Dornford Yates

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BOOK: Red In The Morning
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That we were badly placed was painfully clear.

Gedge had done one murder some twenty minutes ago: and, since he had but one neck, the fellow had nothing to lose by doing two more: but he had much to gain, for Mansel and Carson
alive
could both identify him. Then, again, to kill Mansel must be his heart’s desire, for this was the second time that Mansel had spoiled his game. And he was there in the shadows, behind a bush or a tree; but the Rolls was out in the fairway, which, every so many seconds, was lighted up. And Jenny, my wife, the gentlest creature, I think, I ever knew, was actually on the stage which was set for battle and murder and sudden death.

“It goes without saying,” said Mansel, “that Bell has the wheel of the Rolls and his eyes on this road. We could, therefore, move clear of these trees and sign to him to come on. But I daren’t do that because of Carson: for the moment Gedge sees the car move, he’ll open fire. At least, he very well may: and that’s a risk I can’t take. And Jenny in the front line! There must be some way out, but I can’t see it yet.”

“I believe I can,” said I. “I’ve just remembered something. I stayed here years ago, and I’ve never been back. But now I remember… This isn’t the only road that leads to the
phare
. There’s another one – to the right: less than a road – a lane. We can’t see it from here, but, as she is standing now, the Rolls must be opposite its mouth. Broadside on, of course.”

“Where,” said Mansel, “where does that lane come out?”

“Into the road we left six minutes ago. It’s the second turning on the left: we took the first: I don’t think they’re more than three hundred yards apart.”

“What then?” said Mansel.

“I leave you here,” I said, “and I take that lane. I shall find the car before me, broadside on. I shall be on her nearside: but Carson is on her offside and is looking away from the car. The car will, therefore, be standing between me and Gedge. And if I watch that beam, I can get to a door unseen.”

“So far, so good. And then?”

“I whisper to Bell to call Carson. That’s natural enough. He tells him to wait thirty seconds and then to move round the car and, once it’s between him and Gedge, to sprint up the lane. There he will find Bell and me – with Jenny safe in my arms. And when Gedge gets tired of waiting, he’s free to have a look at the Rolls: with her switch and her bonnet locked, she won’t help him much.”

After, perhaps, one minute –

“I don’t like it much,” said Mansel: “but, as I live, I can’t see a better way out. I don’t like your going alone, but I daren’t leave here. That Carson should speak to Bell is natural enough, but he simply must play up when he moves round the car…behave as though he had heard a suspicious sound…prowl, rather than move – you see what I mean. For Gedge is no damned fool. And for God’s sake watch that beam. I can’t think of anything else.”

“You’ll leave with Carson,” I said.

“Yes,” said Mansel. “The Hotel Regina’s at hand: we’d better meet there.”

“In twenty minutes,” said I, and, with that, I ran like a hare the way we had come…

My memory had not failed me. The Rolls was presenting her side to the little lane. But there was no cover there, and I had to lie flat on my face, when the beam came round, and then get up and advance when the light was gone. This for some sixty yards: and I had to step warily, for the surface was rough. And, curiously enough, that fact contributed to our deliverance.

I was ten paces from the car, when my foot struck a stone. Carson heard the sound and ‘prowled’ round the back of the Rolls, to see what it meant. And, as we met, two cars full of joyous revellers came sliding down past Mansel, to come to rest on the other side of the Rolls.

In a flash I had the doors open.

“Let her go, Bell,” I cried…

Carson and I were inside, Jenny was in my arms, and the Rolls was clear of the
plage
in a moment of time.

“Stand by for Captain Mansel: he’s just on your right.”

“I see him, sir,” said Bell, and slowed for an instant, while Mansel whipped into the car.

As we swung to the left for Chiberta, en route for Freilles –

“You have been a long time,” said Jenny.

“I know, we have, my beauty. You see, we saw someone we knew.”

“I said you had,” said Jenny. “Didn’t I say so, Bell?”

“You did, madam.”

“Is that the truth?” said Jenny. “Because, although I said it, I wasn’t sure?”

“Why weren’t you sure, my darling?”

“I had a feeling that you were up against it – and Jonathan, too. It was – very strong, Richard.”

(My names are Richard, William. When Jenny calls me Richard, I know she is very grave.)

“We did have a brush,” said I. “But it’s over now.”

“I don’t think it is,” said Jenny. “So please be very careful in all you do.”

And there we left the business, to talk of other things. But Jenny has an instinct such as I never encountered in anyone else. For this faculty, Mansel and I had a deep respect: and I knew that he, as was I, was thinking of Daniel Gedge and was wondering whether indeed we had seen the last of him.

It was, perhaps, an hour later, when Jenny had gone to bed, that we summoned Bell and Carson, to hear what they had to tell.

“It was like this, sir,” said Carson. “Bell had the wheel, and I was, of course, by his side. We’d been waiting about ten minutes – it may have been more – waiting just where you saw us, with just the parking lights on. When we’d stopped, I’d let my window down, for you know that Madam can’t never have too much air. I hadn’t seen no one about, but I thought I heard a footstep behind the car. So I put out my head to see. At that moment the beam comes round an’ lights everything up. And there I see Gedge standing – not twelve feet off. Of course I knew him at once, an’ I saw him recognize me. There was no mistaking that, for I saw him start. Then he shot a look up the road – and the beam went out. I strained my ears an’ waited: but when the beam came back, there he still was where he’d been, staring up the road. The light seemed to wake him up, for he turned his head very sharp, to look back at me. Glare, rather than look, sir. That made me think. Then the beam went out again, and I heard him run very lightly behind the car. An’ then Bell heard him moving the other side.

“So I tipped Bell off, drew the pistol and then slipped out of the car. Gedge was mischievous, sir: I was sure of that. And with Madam sitting behind… But once I was out of the car, it gave me a chance. Of course he was not to be seen, when the beam came round: but I knew he was there somewhere; and, sure enough, when the beam came round again, I saw him move. An’ then I lost him again.”

He addressed himself to Mansel.

“I made sure something had happened to make him mad. An’ then I realized that it must be something you’d done. I mean, sir, he’d come your way an’, knowing that I was your servant, he’d showed his hate. And I didn’t half like the idea of your walking up to the car: but I daren’t tell Bell to move, because you’d said to wait there, an’, for all I knew, as things were, you’d had some good reason for that. An’ then I remembered you’d see me, as you came down the road, an’ directly you saw me, sir, you’d know there was something wrong.”

“As I did,” said Mansel, and set a match to his pipe. “You couldn’t have done any more, and I certainly owe you my life. And now you shall hear our tale.”

With that, he related what I have already set down.

“And there we are,” he concluded. “I hardly think our friend will pursue the matter. Thieves have their living to earn: and they wouldn’t earn their living if they spent their time destroying the people who’d cramped their style. All the same, Gedge is sore – for this is the second time that I’ve helped to get in his way. And so he may turn nasty. If he does – well, he doesn’t know where we are, but he’ll soon find out: he has the number of the car, and there aren’t so many Rolls on the Silver Coast. So let us keep our eyes open – and carry arms.”

 

In the paper of the following morning, the violent affair at Biarritz took pride of place. As Mansel had surmised, the men had been masked: the jewels which had been taken were said to be worth some seventy thousand pounds (this may have been true, for the party had been attended by two immensely rich women, both well known for the rarity of their gems): the butler had been shot dead, because, though told to stand still, he had made to set on a table a tray which he had in his hands – a very barbarous thing, for the tray was heavy-laden and the butler was not a young man. All the jewels had been recovered: they had been found, through the vigilance of the police (
sic
), in the half-finished building of which I have spoken before; but, though a strict watch had been kept, the thieves had not returned to collect their spoil when the workmen engaged on the building began to arrive.

Then came ‘the mystery’.

‘An examination of the car which had been used by the bandits at once revealed the reason for its abandonment.’ (Here followed a description of the method which we had applied.) ‘The question is – who did the rogues this ill turn? Was it a rival gang? Or was it some mischievous idler, who had no idea that he was assisting Justice, but only meant to embarrass some innocent motorist? If it was a rival gang… In any event it is clear that to this action is due the so prompt recovery of the jewels. That they would have been recovered eventually goes without saying, just as the arrest of the bandits is but a matter of time. The police are pursuing their inquiries with their customary efficiency.’

It was, at least, clear that Captain Toby Rage had kept his counsel and ours.

When I showed Mansel the paper, he covered his eyes.

“The last sentence,” he said, “is pathetic. It really is. Gedge has been ‘working’ the Continent for certainly fifteen years. He frequents The Wet Flag at Rouen and The Red Nose at Montmartre – taverns which the police never raid, for reasons best known to themselves. So that, if they show no more than their ‘customary efficiency’, Gedge is about as safe as a man in an iron lung.”

“They don’t know that Gedge was involved.”

“They damned well ought to,” said Mansel. “And I think they probably do. In England, five times out of six, the Yard know at once who’s committed a crime like this. I don’t say they always get him – they mayn’t be able to crack his alibi. But they see him all right. And they ask him where he was on the twenty-second day of July. But I’ll lay any money you like that the French police never see Gedge. He’s out of the top drawer. Add to that that they concentrate on their ports. But Gedge never tries to get out. The continent of Europe is quite good enough for him.”

“And us? Will he turn on us?”

Mansel shrugged his shoulders.

“We shall know,” he said, “before the end of this week.”

In fact we knew that morning – at about a quarter to twelve.

The three of us were bathing as usual, for it was a lovely day. Whilst Bell remained in the house, Carson had brought us to the
plage
and was coming to fetch us again at a quarter to one. All Freilles was in the water or on the sand, that is to say, some hundred and fifty souls: but since there was room for five thousand, every party was very well able to keep to itself. In fact, our bathing tent was the last of the line and was pitched about thirty yards from the one on its right. We seldom entered the tent, for we drove from the villa in
peignoirs
, all ready to bathe; but we left our things before it, or sometimes inside. On this particular morning, Mansel had folded his gown and had laid it within the tent, for a pistol was in its pocket in case of accidents.

We usually left the water about midday, to bask for forty-five minutes, before we left the
plage
; upon this morning, however, Jenny came out before we did and made her way to the tent. Five minutes later, perhaps, I looked towards where she would be, to see her in conversation with a man who was actually seated inside our tent. At once I hailed Mansel, some twenty yards farther out, and when I saw that he heard me, I swam for the shore…

I waded out of the water and hastened over the sand.

As I reached Jenny’s side –

“Pray be seated, Mr Chandos,” said the stranger. “Quite close to Mrs Chandos. And please don’t interfere with Captain Mansel’s approach. I’m not going to kill him – here.”

The fellow was sitting cross-legged, as tailors do. His wrists were upon his thighs, and in either hand was a pistol, their muzzles drooping together into his lap. But his wrists looked very supple…

All things considered, it seemed best to do as he said.

“So provoking,” he continued, “so odious to embarrass Mrs Chandos like this. If there is one thing I hate doing, it is revealing to a lady my cloven hoof. Yes, this is Captain Mansel’s pistol. So very thoughtful of him to have left it here… Ah, here he is.” A flick of his wrists, and one pistol was covering Mansel and the other was covering me. “Charmed to meet you, Captain Mansel. I trust you will see the wisdom of sitting down. Force my hand if you must; but I’d rather not startle the
plage
.”

Mansel regarded him straitly. Then he sat down by my side. Slowly the two muzzles turned, to droop into the stranger’s lap.

He continued easily.

“I was just telling Mr Chandos how deeply I regretted–”

“No doubt,” said Mansel, shortly. “What do you want?”

The other nodded.

“I know just how you feel,” he said. “Never mind. You ask what I want. The answer is the great pleasure of ten minutes’ talk with you.”

“Kindly allow Mrs Chandos to take her leave.”

The stranger shook his head.

“For reasons which you will appreciate, your request is refused.”

“She will go to the edge of the water and stay within sight.”

“No.”

The fellow rapped out the word, as a sergeant upon the square.

Mansel raised his eyebrows.

“Come to the point,” he said.

It was a most curious experience. But seventy paces away, men and women and children were frolicking in the surf. We could hear their laughter and we were full in their sight. Yet we could not move nor cry out – because there was death in the tent. Death wore the shape of a well-bred, clean-shaven man of, perhaps, forty-five, and as I presently learned that he was known as Brevet, from this time on I will venture to use his name. His features were good but his grey eyes were set too close. His voice was soft and cultured; his manner, nonchalant; and he wore a look of the most profound resignation from first to last.

BOOK: Red In The Morning
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