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Title: The Fighting Eagle (3/6)
Series: The Eagle Chronicles
Word Count 4715
Summary Steven is back in London and meets up with some old acquaintances and tries to solve a murder
Author's Note This was one of the stories that came to me later so it got squeezed in. It ties in with 5. Inspector Hamilton and 6. Alison.

Part One.
Part Two.




10 The Fighting Eagle

III


Later that night, Steven went to the East End where Hank Wright held "Court". He had changed into a dirty jacket and torn trousers, and dirties his face so he would fit in. Hank Wright was a large man and commanded respect wherever he was. Steven thought of him as a clean-shaven Bill Sykes, though not as ruthless. Steven hoped to stay incognito until he was ready. He sat down and looked at the man's audience. They were all young--not one was over twenty-five. With most of them, it seemed like hero-worship. Hank did have a reputation in the East End. As Sam had said, his "gang" performed a few robberies and he took a percentage of the profit. The youths began to quiet down and Steven realized that Hank was preparing to speak.

"Glad you could all make it. For those of you just joining us, I expect the best from everyone, and that means no failure."

"What about that job about three years ago when you sacrificed the take in order to keep your life?" Steven couldn't resist.

Wright seemed disturbed. There were only two people beside himself that knew of that. "How do you know about it?"

"I was there."

Wright then knew who it was. One man was in jail so this had to be.... "The Eagle," he whispered.

The awed audience stared as Steven stood and walked to Hank. "You put on quite a show, Hank. From the way you were talking, I would have thought you had forgotten that excursion."

"What are you doing here? Escape from jail?"

"Nope. Been pardoned. Workin' for the government now." Wright shook his head. "You don't believe me? I'll call Winnie and let you talk to him."

"You know Churchill?"

"I'm here on business, Hank, not to drop names."

"And what might that business be?" Steven noticed that he had returned to his old self.

"Tom Shaw."

"He's dead," Hank said coldly.

"I know. I found the body. I was even accused of killing him. Old Sam came to visit me and was hit by a car right after he left. Now I've got two murders to solve."

"Old Sam is dead? How do you know it was murder?"

"We were talking over a list of suspects. He had the list in his head."

"Was I on the list? Are you here because you think I killed him?"

"Is that what you think?"

"Quit it with the high-and-mighty questions! I want a straightforward answer! Yes or no?"

"Yes and no. Your name was on the list as a possible suspect, but I'm not sure that you would kill. Can you tell me anything about Tom? He worked for you, didn't he?"

"Yeah, bright kid even though he couldn't read. 'Course there's not much call for it in what we do."

"You can, though."

"It's a help for planning, though not necessary. You, on the other hand, have a real education."

"At the time, I didn't plan to be going into this line of work. How was Tommy acting recently?"

"Well, he seemed a bit excited about something day before yesterday. Said he was gonna make it big. I asked him what he was talkin' about because I like to know what they're doin' so I can give advice or somethin'. He smiled in that way of his and said he'd tell me later."

"Was that the last time you saw him?"

"Yeah. I liked Tommy, he was a good kid. Besides, you know I don't like guns. You feel the same way. I'd use a cosh or a knife, they're quieter."

"Thanks. If you do hear anything, let me know." Steven went outside. As he was walking, he heard two pairs of footsteps. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two figures of a young and slight build. He turned a corner and waited for them to catch up. He backed against a wall, held a piece of wood in his hand, and waited.

The two figures cautiously approached. "Where is 'e?"

"Dunno. Should be 'ere."

Steven waited until they were in the ideal position. "You seem to have found me, gentlemen," he said, holding the wood to their backs. "What do you want me for?" One of them turned his head. "Ah, ah, ah. Look ahead."

The youth did as he was told. "We 'eard ya talkin' ta Wright 'n' we know it was abaht Tommy."

"Keep going."

The second began to talk. "We was friends of 'is. We wanted t' talk t' ya."

"Why didn't you just call me instead of following, then?" The two of them started to turn around. Steven jabbed them with the wood. "None of that, now. Throw down your weapons, then we'll talk."

"Not very trustin', are ya?"

"Not when it comes to armed men with a murderer about. Turn around slowly. First Jim Sullivan then Dave Connors." The first was lanky with long features on a white face. The second had a rounder, darker face. "Well, gentlemen, what do you have to tell me?" Steven asked, throwing away the wood.

"You're younger than I thought," said Sullivan.

"I don't know if I should take that as an insult or a compliment."

"As a compl'ment. I mean, you ain't much older 'n us an' ya got a name f'r yoursel'," said Connors.

"Now back to the topic at hand. What do you have to tell me about Tommy?"

"'E was actin' strange like. Sometimes 'e was real quiet an' later 'e'd be smilin' an' laughin'. Not normal for 'im."

"You're right," Steven said quietly. "He was always pretty forward."

"Y'knew 'im?" asked Sullivan in surprise.

"When I was in London last, I worked with him and Hank." Steven returned to the main point. "Where were you the night he was killed?"

"Wot? Ya think we done it? Cor, mate, we'd've been picked out easy 'mong all them toffs."

"You didn't answer my question. Where were you?"

The two looked at each other. They didn't dare cross this man. Even though he was only a few years older than they were, he had more experience in the field and they had heard the stories. It would be best if they gave a truthful answer. "We was, um, workin'."

"Where?" Steven's voice was cold.

"C'mon. Y' know what we do. We can't tell."

"I won't do anything more now, but you'd better not leave the city. You're still under suspicion." The youths nodded and ran off. "That's three down and two to go." He looked at his watch. If he hurried, he could change and make it to the clubs to join Alison.

******************************************************

The next day Steven was free so he decided to visit Tommy's sister. He took the bus and walked the rest of the way to her building. He checked for the flat number and saw that she still went by the name of Shaw--probably to protect her husband. He knocked on the door. "Go away! He's not here!"

"Mrs. Adams? I'm here to talk about your brother."

"Tommy? What for? Are you police?"

"No. I was a friend of Tommy's from a few years back. I'd like to talk to you if I may."

She slowly opened the door a crack and saw Steven standing there, politely waiting. "Just a minute." She shut the door and undid the chain lock. "Come in." Steven walked in slowly. "Take a seat. Would you like some tea?"

"No, thank you. I don't have much time." Steven looked at her. She was close to thirty and might have been beautiful once, but now she seemed worn-down, as if time had caught up with her.

"What can I do for you, Mr....."

"Steven Taylor. I was at the wake for your brother and was snubbed. I think it best to tell you from the outset that people think I killed him. I want to tell you, Mrs. Adams--"

"Susan."

"I want to tell you, Susan, I was a friend of Tommy's and I'm trying to find out who really killed him. I'd like to ask you some questions, and if you don't want to answer, fine, but it might be misconstrued as guilt." He watched her expression.

"Certainly, Mr. Taylor. I have nothing to hide."

"Thank you. Now, had Tommy been acting differently to you? Had he been quieter than usual, or act as if he had a secret?"

"He was seeming secretive. He said he had something to show me, but he never did."

"Do you know if he showed it to anyone else?"

"He might've showed it to Jack before he left."

"When was that? It might be important."

"I think it was Tuesday. He left for Birmingham."

Tuesday, three days before the murder. "Do you have any letters from him? Birmingham is not the place you leave London for during war."

"I'll look." She got up and went through a desk drawer. "Here it is." She showed it to him.

"Mind if I read it?" She shook her head. He glanced over it and saw that Jack wouldn't be returning until Monday. He saw an interesting passage.

I have a great con going here. Tell Tommy he helped a lot. I hope he got what he wanted since he won't be able to carry it off again.

That seemed curious. He read it again.

"Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, fine." Steven gave the letter back. "You've been a great help. I'm terribly sorry about Tommy. Good-bye." He left the building in a hurry. That letter was written on a London hotel stationery yet it was post-marked Birmingham. If Adams lied in saying when he left, what was to stop him from lying about his return? If he had been in London Tuesday, he could have gone on a day-trip to Birmingham, mailed the letter, then come back and have time to kill Tommy. If that were true, he still might be in London!

He went back to his flat and began to go over the suspects.

* HANK WRIGHT--maybe--he could have had the opportunity and the motive, but guns aren't his style and that was definitely the weapon
* CONNORS & SULLIVAN--they seemed like a couple of scared kids--might have been ruthless if cornered some way, but wrong type
* SUSAN SHAW ADAMS--from what Tommy had said before his sister doted on him, they were close even if 10 years apart--she couldn't have done it
* JACK ADAMS--a letter written on London hotel stationery post-marked Birmingham--cryptic contents? Definite possibility


He was too wound up to do much of anything. Any more investigations would have to wait until he could concentrate without making foolish mistakes. Maybe Alison could use some cheering-up. He sure did.

***************************************************

He stepped inside the door and saw that she was with a customer. She smiled at him. Steven glanced around the shop and laughed to himself having discovered that she worked in a jewelry store. He looked through the glass cases and covertly stared at the gems on the rings and bracelets. What a touch of irony! His hands wanted to reach out and touch; to hold the jewels and it took great effort for him to refrain from doing so.

"May I help you, sir?"

Steven looked up and saw Mrs. Meyers, Alison's employer. "No, thank you. Not just yet. I'm just admiring your diamonds and emeralds. Beautiful workmanship."

"Do you know about gem-cutting?"

"A bit. I'm something of a dabbler when it comes to jewels."

"Would you like to get a better look?" Mrs. Meyers was excited to see someone who knew about gems instead of the people who bought for looks, not craftsmanship.

"If it's not too much trouble." He glanced at Alison and saw her frowning. He smiled reassuringly which only made her angrier.

Mrs. Meyers held a diamond out for Steven to examine. She was surprised at how delicately he held the jewel. That was a sign of experience. She showed him other gems of high quality and they discussed the workmanship of each.

"Mrs. Meyers, there is something I must tell you about myself." The woman waited for him to continue. "The reason I know so much about jewels is because of my former profession. My name is Steven Taylor and I was once a jewel thief."

The woman's face became pale with shock then the color slowly began to come back. Alison rushed over to calm her down. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Meyers. I asked him not to come during working hours, but..."

Mrs. Meyers looked at Steven. "You were here before, weren't you?" Steven nodded. "Mr. Taylor, you have just given me the most interesting conversation I've had in a long time." She smiled. "As long as you are being truthful in saying that it was your former profession, you are welcome to visit." She looked at the two of them then walked away.

Alison let out a deep breath. "What did you do that for? You could have cost me my job?"

"It didn't."

"Lucky for you. What did you want?"

"About tonight. I can go out, but I might be late. I'm almost done with this case and it might take a little longer than planned. If that happens, go ahead and I'll meet you there."

"Okay. Till tonight."

He kissed her. "Bye." He left her and made his way to Scotland Yard. "I'd like to talk to Detective Hamilton, please."

The desk sergeant calmly asked his name and business. The man picked up the phone and dialed Hamilton's extension. "Sir, there's a Steven Taylor here to see you. Yes, sir." He hung up. "Detective Hamilton will see you. Two stories up, second door on the right."

Steven thanked him and climbed the stairs to Hamilton's office. "Come in." Steven went in and sat down. "What is it, Taylor?"

"I think I've figured out who killed Tommy Shaw."

"So?"

"All I need is some checking done."

"Are you positive about this suspect?"

"All that's left is the proof that you'll get for me."

"All right," Hamilton said reluctantly. "What do you want me to do?"

"Just this."

*******************************************

That night everything seemed to be working out and falling into place. Steven felt tense and elated at the same time. He got into his car feeling very confident. Hamilton was tying up loose ends so he'd be able to enjoy this night with Alison. He drove up to their block and climbed the steps to their flat. He knocked on the door. "Mr. Montclair, it's Steven. Is Alison in?"

Mr. Montclair came to the door. "She's gone out to the clubs. She said you might stop by."

"When did she go?"

"Maybe fifteen minutes to a half-hour." He looked at the clock. "Closer to a half-hour. She said she'd be at the usual."

"Right. Thanks, Gordon." Steven left and drove to their usual club, the one where he first saw her. When he arrived, he saw Charles Moreland and her other friends. "Where's Alison?"

"Isn't she with you?"

"Her father said she left about forty-five minutes ago. She should be here by now." Steven was worried.

"Are you sure you have the right club?" asked Charles.

"Definite. Her father said 'the usual'."

"Oh, my," said one of the girls. "What's going on?"

"I don't know," said Steven, "but I aim to find out." He had a sneaking suspicion of what had happened and who had done it.

He went to the club phone and called the Yard. "Detective Hamilton is out, sir. Is there a message?"

"No, thanks." Steven hung up the phone. He decided then and there to take the matter fully into his own hands. He went out to the car and headed back to the Adams' flat. He knocked on the door. No answer. He pounded. Still nothing. He applied a little back and shoulder pressure and forced the door. The room was empty of people. Furniture was strewn about as if there had been a major row. As he began to search the flat, he heard a faint sobbing. "Mrs. Adams? Susan, is that you?" Steven followed the sound and found Tommy's sister face down on the bed, crying.

She heard him come in and looked up. "You knew, didn't you?" she asked, wiping her eyes.

He gave her a handkerchief. "I suspected, I didn't know."

"He was in London the whole time! He killed my Tommy!" she sobbed. "He thought you'd be coming here, especially after I told him you came by before. He left you this." She handed him a folded sheet of paper.

Steven controlled his trembling hands as he opened the paper and carefully read the note.
Mr. Taylor, I know you know the facts, so I won't mention those. Your girlfriend tells me that you were blamed for Tommy's death. What a good stroke for me....

That's what you think, Steven said to himself.

Enough of that. If you want to see Alison again, come to the old grain warehouse across the Thames by Tower Bridge once you get this note.

That was the end of it. "When did he leave?"

"Close to half-an-hour ago."

"That sounds about right. He could have intercepted Alison on her way to the club," he thought aloud. "I'm sorry things had to happen this way."

"Don't worry. Just get your girl back. I loved Jack once, but I can't forgive him for killing Tommy." She took a deep breath. "Just go on."

Steven gave her a comforting smile before he left. He drove with dim headlights to the warehouse, pulled into the car park, and jumped out. The granary was just across the way and he ran silently to it. The door creaked as he opened it. Jack could have her anywhere. The best way to get a look around would be from the catwalk. He climbed the ladder and cautiously crept along, looking in every possible direction. He saw a light coming from the manager's office. He smiled and picked up a loose piece of metal from the walk and threw it down on the cement floor as close to the office as possible.

The clanging echoed throughout the building and Adams came out with Alison. "Taylor, I know you're here! Come out and show yourself or your girlfriend gets it!" Jack placed a gun to her head.

"Don't do it!" she called. "Come get the guy and don't worry about me!"

Steven was torn. He knew Alison could definitely take care of herself, but then Adams had no qualms about killing. "Let her go, Jack, then I'll come to you."

Jack couldn't tell where the voice was coming from. "No way, Taylor. You think I believe you? Once I see you, I'll let her go."

"I think we've come to a deadlock, Jack. Once you see me, how do I know you won't kill the both of us?"

"You'll lose either way." He tightened his grip on her then cocked the gun.

Steven loosed his knife and threw it at Jack's gun arm. The gun fell at impact and Alison ran away. Steven ran along the catwalk and down the ladder. He stood over Jack, who held his arm in pain. Steven reached down to help him up, but Jack slashed at him with the knife before running off.

"Hell!" Steven began to chase after him. Jack turned and threw the knife. Steven ducked then retrieved it. When he turned around, Adams was gone. "Double hell!" He ran through the aisles looking for Jack, or even a trail of blood. "C'mon, Jack! You can't run forever!"

"Stay where you are, Taylor! I've got your girl again. She must've been worried 'bout you in order to stick around." Steven knew Jack had no weapon. He walked towards the voice. There was a bang and a whizzing sound as a bullet passed his ear. "As you can see, I do have a gun. Your girlfriend was nice enough to give it to me."

Lacking the element of surprise, Steven tried another ploy. "You're getting weak, Jack. You've lost a lot of blood." He could hear Jack's heavy breathing. "You're so weak now, a woman could get the better of you." He hoped Alison would pick up on her cue.

Jack attempted to return the taunt, but Alison hit his wounded arm and grabbed the gun from him. She held it on him and waited for Steven. Her clothes were a little bloody, but she smiled at him. "How did I do?"

"Absolutely wonderful." He took the gun from her, and when it was switching hands, Jack ran off. "Why can't he stay still?" he muttered. "Stop, Jack, or I'll shoot!" Jack kept going. "I mean it!" He fired a warning shot that landed close to Jack's head. He slowed but didn't stop. Steven fired again, but still he didn't stop. Steven ran after him because Jack had gone out of range. He fired again to warn him, but misjudged the angle and Jack fell.

Steven ran to him. He was still alive. "Where are the documents?"

Jack smiled. "Sold 'em. Lots o' money." He coughed.

"Who to, Jack? Where's the money?"

"Seymour Industries. Money's in 64." He died.

Steven dropped the gun. Alison came to him. "Is he..?"

"Yes. I didn't mean to kill him." He looked at the gun. "I hate those things."

Alison took him by the arm. "C'mon, we'd better go to the police and tell them about it."

"Yeah." He shook himself out of his depression. "The car's this way."

Steven drove to the nearest police station and reported the body. "Can I borrow your phone?" They directed him to it. "Is Detective Hamilton in yet?" The sergeant connected him.

"Hamilton here."

"This is Steven Taylor."

"Did you call earlier?"

"Yeah, but it doesn't matter now. 'Member when I asked you to check on Jack Adams?"

"Yes. He had gone to Birmingham and talked with the president of some company. Let me check."

"Seymour Industries, right?"

"Right. How did you know?"

"Adams told me before he died." Steven prepared himself for the outburst he knew would follow.

"Died? What do you mean 'died'?"

"He had Alison and we had a bit of a fight. I shot in warning, but he got in the way."

"Leave it to you to liven things up. Where's the body?"

Steven told him. "There's one more thing I need to ask you: what is the president's name and address?"

Hamilton gave it to him reluctantly. "I take it that this has an important bearing on the case?"

"Certainly, Nigel. The reason Tommy was killed is in the hands of a certain industrial magnate. You'll find the money in safety deposit box 64."

"In what bank?"

"You don't expect me to do all the work, do you?" He hung up and thanked the police then took Alison to the car. "Where to now?"

"Is that it? Are we done?"

"Yes, we are. Any particular place you want to go?"

"Home. I don't know about you, but I'm tired."

"Now that you mention it, I am a bit beat." He drove her home. "I'm going to be busy tomorrow, so I'll either see you tomorrow night or the day after."

"And what will you be busy doing?"

"I'll be with Winston doing important business."

"Fine." She kissed him goodnight. "Be careful."

"Yes, Mom," he said, sounding like a meek child.

****************************************************

The next morning he drove to Birmingham. Since he was working for the government, he had a bit more freedom in the acquisition of petrol. He was on the receiving end of many inquiring stares. He just smiled, waved, and drove on.

He pulled up in front of the gate of Seymour Industries. "I'm here to talk to Mr. Palmer. Mr. Adams sent me."

The sentry checked his list. "There's no mention of Mr. Adams. What is your name?"

"Townshend, but it won't be there. This is very spur of the moment."

"Let me call Mr. Palmer." The sentry stepped into the booth and Steven saw him raise the phone to his mouth and watched his lips. He stepped out and told Steven to go ahead. "Mr. Palmer will be waiting."

Steven smiled to himself and hoped he could carry it off. He parked his car and walked into the office. "Mr. Palmer?" The man behind the desk stood. "I'm Townshend. Jack Adams couldn't make it so he sent me."

"I hope it's nothing serious."

"It was, but he's resting peacefully now." Steven thought that a nice statement of the facts without actually saying them. "I'm here to check on your satisfaction with the package sent to you by Mr. Adams, and on its safe arrival."

Mr., Palmer pressed a button on his intercom. "No interruptions, please." He looked at Steven. "Now, Mr. Townshend, I'd like to inform you that the documents arrived on Saturday. They are very pleasing to the eye and my 'friend' will be very glad to receive them. Mr. Adams told me that there might be some trouble in procuring them. I hope everything went well."

"Yes, quite well. I must be leaving. I have business to attend to in London."

"You don't mean to head back so soon? I'll give you a tour of the plant, then you can come to my home for tea."

Steven wasn't sure how to react to this invitation. Was Palmer on to him, or was he just asking out of politeness? He decided to accept. "Thank you, sir. I'd like that very much."

*********************************************

Steven sat in his car and looked at his watch in the dim moonlight: 1:05am. He smiled and went over in his mind the plans to Palmer's house. The office was the front-left room, windows on two sides with the safe on the wall to the left of the door. Palmer had made the mistake of letting Steven see the combination and the other contents of the safe. "No one can get in here," he said. "I'm the only one who knows the combination." Steven smiled as he remembered how proud Palmer was of his impregnable safe. He looked back at the house. All the lights were out. It was time to go.

He scaled the wall and ran across the lawn. When he was in Palmer's office, he had taken the liberty of leaving one of the windows unlocked. He opened it cautiously, making sure he didn't hit the trip wire for the alarm system. He crawled through the window and went straight for the safe. He began to turn the combination lock: 32L, 10R, and...damn! What was that last number? He placed his hear next to the tumbler and listened as he turned the dial. Was that a click? No, just a footstep. A footstep?! Steven quickly hid in a corner and waited for whomever it was to go away. The person stopped in front of the door and Steven held his breath. The person continued on their way and Steven returned to the safe. He found the final number and took out the documents and some jewels to make it an "authentic" theft. Then he drove back to London.

***************************************************

The next night Steven was dancing to Glenn Miller with Alison. He thought back over the day. On his arrival in London, he went to Hamilton to hand over the documents and jewels. "There's your proof. Palmer was going to sell that information to Germany."

"And the jewels?"

"I had to make it look real, didn't I?"

Alison brought him out of his reverie. "What's the matter?"

"Oh, nothing. I was just thinking over everything. Before I picked you up, I heard the news that Palmer was arrested for treason and in connection with Tommy's murder."

"So everything's settled and there's nothing more to worry about."

"One thing: they didn't mention me at all!"

"Oh, do be sensible. It's only just happened. The press will probably mention you in the morning."

"Quite right. Let's enjoy the rest of the evening."

That night at her door, he kissed her goodnight. "Tomorrow, we'll do something different. Okay?"

She smiled. "Good-night." She kissed him and waved as she walked inside.

Part 4

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