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The Eagle Chronicles 22: The Black Eagle

Title: The Black Eagle
Series: The Eagle Chronicles.
Word Count 5987
Summary Steven is suffering a mix of ennui and depression. His friend John finds the perfect cure




22 The Black Eagle


May, 1952

This was not a good time for Steven Taylor. The past year and a half had not been a good time for Steven Taylor. Without anything to occupy his mind, he kept dwelling on his dead wife. The days were long and the nights even longer. His friends were worried because all he did was sit inside and stare at the walls. Every day, the newspapers came up with new theories regarding his "condition", and none were totally right.

One night when he was more restless than usual and his Picadilly townhouse was too small to contain his pacing, he went out and roamed the streets of London. He had no idea of where he walked or how far he roamed, but soon he noticed the sun was shining and he was a few blocks away from Scotland Yard. He strolled into the building and made straight for Inspector John Dolittle's office. When he walked by, all typing stopped and everyone stared. Without so much as a glance, he walked into Dolittle's office, poured himself a cup of coffee, and sat down.

John Dolittle had known Steven for ten years and not once had he seen him act this way. He knew people reacted differently to grief, but this was too much. "So, where have you been? I've been trying to reach you since early this morning. It's now 11:00!"

Steven looked at him for the first time and John could see the disinterest in his blue eyes--and the stubble on his chin. "Inspector, please," he raised his hand, "We did not come here to argue."

John sighed inwardly. The royal "We". He didn't even use that when he was king! "What did you come here for, then? Free coffee?"

"Calm yourself, my good man. You said you tried to reach Us?"

"Yes, at about 1:00 this morning. Where were you?"

"Out." Steven sipped his coffee.

"Just what I was afraid of. There was a burglary in Bond Street. Jewels. A constable found your calling card. While you were 'out', were you anywhere near Bond Street?"

"Can't say. I have no idea where I went. Just about." He walked to John's desk to peek at the file. "Was the card handwritten or typed?"

John smiled. He was showing interest. "Typed, like yours were."

Steven was quiet as he read the report. When he was through, he looked down at his wrinkled clothes and ran a hand across his chin. "On our way to the shop, we stop at my place so I can change and shave. How could I have gone around looking like this?"

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

In a fresh suit and tie and with what he thought a dashing mustache (Dolittle tried to hide a smile), Steven felt good and knew that he looked better than he had in days. While on the way to Bond Street, Steven listened attentively as John told him as much about the robbery as he could. "Whoever it was must have followed your exploits because they had everything down. Must have been as-calm-as-you-please because this store has an advanced alarm system and nothing happened."

They arrived at the shop. Dolittle showed his badge and had to vouch for a paler and thinner Steven Taylor. The manager was surprised to see Steven with Scotland Yard, especially after all the stories he had heard. "Please, do sit down." He motioned at two chairs as he sat behind the desk. "Please excuse my nervousness, but there were some very precious uncut gems in the safe."

"Did he take everything from the safe?" asked John.

"No. That's what's puzzling. He left bills of large denominations." John looked at Steven as if to say I told you so.

"May I see the safe, please?" asked Steven. "Since the thief is mimicking me, I might be able to pick something up."

"Good idea. While you're doing that, I'll question the staff."

The safe had not been blasted or forced in any way. The thief had simply used the combination without leaving fingerprints. Steven timed himself on the combination. Twenty minutes or so. He then scouted the room to discover the thief's access. He noticed a freshly chipped piece of wood on a windowsill and decided to follow the tracks. He went out through the door and walked around to the window to check the ground for footprints. The earth was soft enough for indentations. He stood beside a print and carefully lifted his foot. His print was the same size as those left by the thief. This person really knew Steven's personal statistics--right down to his shoe size.

He wandered about the back lot and let his eyes take in everything, including the eight-foot wall surrounding it. At least he had figured out the point of entry and exit. It was time to see how Dolittle was coming along.

John was dismissing the last employee when Steven entered. "All have alibis. They were either with spouses or friends. This is going to be a fun case."

"I found the point of entry. They forced open the window and climbed the wall out back. Whoever it was, they knew my shoe size."

"What was that?"

"I stood by a set of prints and left my own right next to it. Same size."

"It looks as if someone is out to ruin you."

"Yeah, and they've got a pretty good start. There's one thing they didn't count on, however."

"Oh?"

"Me."

"I don't like it when you get that look in your eyes. What are you thinking about?"

"Friends that owe me favors from the old neighborhood." He retrieved his hat. "I'll report in later, Chief. Ta."

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

Steven strolled through the East End and stopped in front of a pawn shop. The man behind the counter looked to be in his late 50s with thinning grey hair. "What can I do for you?" he asked without lifting his head from his paper.

"Do you have anything in diamonds?"

"Diamonds? Look, friend, where would I get diamonds in a neighborhood like this?"

"You have your ways, Mike."

The man looked up. "Steven? My God, it is you. The way they talked about you in the papers, you were becoming a recluse."

"I'm on the trail again, Mike. There was a burglary in Bond Street and the thief left my calling card. I'm just checking to see if any gems have come your way."

Mike hesitated. "What about me if I do tell? I mean, they'll know it was me."

"I know things about you, Mike, that could possible put you away."

"You never acted this way before." Mike was alarmed.

"I've never been in this situation before. I don't want people to think I've reverted to my old ways in my depression." He stared at Mike.

Mike knew that if he looked too long into those sea-blue eyes, he'd lose himself. He also couldn't lie. "No, no one's come to me with any gems."

Steven looked away. "Thanks, Mike. Let me know if anything shows up." He walked out of the shop.

Later that afternoon, Steven went into St. James Park and just sat there, thinking, breathing the fresh air. He had gone to all the fences he knew and none had received the jewels. There were absolutely no leads. Something had to break soon.

He went home and changed into jeans and a T-shirt, then put on the kettle while he debated what to have for dinner. When that was done, he moved into his den and put on the television. The first thing he heard was his own name in connection with the robbery. They even had a photo of him with his new mustache. He thought it looked quite dashing. He went back into the kitchen to clean the plates. He then realized what a mess the house was. He turned off the TV and put on some big band records which made it easier to clean.

He was becoming quite enthusiastic when he thought he heard the doorbell. He turned down the music and heard it again. He walked to the door and opened it. A young woman in her mid-twenties stood on the doorstep. She was about 5'6" with brown hair and green eyes. "Ah, come in. Excuse the mess. I wasn't expecting company."

She timidly walked in. "I had to talk to you. It's to do with the Bond Street Jewelers."

Steven took her coat. "Please, sit down. Can I get you some tea? It might relax you."

"Yes, please."

"Just make yourself comfortable. I won't be a moment." When he returned with the tea tray, he noticed she had done some straightening. "You didn't have to do that...," he paused, waiting for her name."

"Rebecca Adamson. I couldn't sit still. I hope I didn't ruin anything."

"Not at all. You just saved me the trouble." He smiled and set down the tray. "You didn't come here to clean my home. Tell me what's bothering you."

"After work tonight, I returned home to find these on my bedroom bureau." She reached into her purse and pulled out the stolen gems. "I have no idea of how they got there. I swear to you I didn't steal them."

Steven took the gems from her. "These are the missing gems?" he questioned her.

"Definitely. I marked them to be put in the safe."

"Marked them?"

"Inventory. I wrote them out on a list with descriptions so we knew what was in the safe."

Steven held one up to the light. "Why didn't you go to the police?"

"They would think I was lying. You're not like that. Please, your Grace, you must believe me."

"You will have to go to the police. I'll go with you if it'll make you feel better. How did you get here?"

"Taxi."

"Okay, we'll go in my car." He stood and held out her coat.

"Right now?" She put it on.

"They'll think you're withholding evidence if you don't." He stopped at the front closet and pulled out an Irish-knit sweater. "Shall we go?" he asked after he pulled it on over his head.

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

Steven sat in Dolittle's office and watched as Rebecca was questioned. He felt somewhat out of place, but she persuaded him to stay. She told everything to Dolittle, just as she had told Steven. "That's the truth, Inspector. I have them here. Please, take them. Just holding them makes me nervous."

Dolittle took the gems and set them on his desk. "How do I know these are the real thing?"

"I checked them myself," said Steven from his corner. "They're good quality."

"I'll take your word for it. You are the expert."

"I know that knowledge could be put to good use." He smiled then turned to Rebecca. "Do you feel better now?"

"I feel a great weight lifted off my shoulders."

"John has to type up your report before you sign it, so, would you like a cup of coffee or something?"

"If you could tell me where the ladies' room is..?"

"Certainly," said Dolittle. "Down through the desks, into the hall, the second door on the right." She left. "Do you believe her?" he asked as he loaded a sheet of paper into the typewriter.

"I'm not sure. She definitely believes her story." Steven moved over and sat on the corner of the desk. "It seems so set. Before she showed, I felt we needed a break like this." He reached for one of the diamonds and turned it in his hands. Something didn't look right. He walked over to the light.

"What's the matter?" asked John, still typing.

"I have a nagging feeling about something. I need to borrow your window." He walked over to the window and moved the gem across a pane of glass. It left no mark.

Steven ran past John's desk. "What's going on?"

"We've been had! She made a switch between the real gems and cut glass. We have to check the building."

A thorough search was made of Scotland Yard, but there was no sign of her. "Next time you have a 'nagging feeling'," John said, "speak up sooner." He walked back to his office and Steven followed.

Dolittle sat at his desk and looked at the report. "You're not going to find her in there," Steven remarked.

"I didn't get this position because of my connections. If we don't find her, we might find some clues."

Steven grinned. "My apologies, Inspector." He became serious. "How about if I go to the home address and you check the shop? Is she one of the employees you interviewed?"

"Of course she was. If not, I would have been suspicious from the start."

"You're being very touchy. I was only asking a question."

"You'd be touchy too, if a criminal had escaped through your fingers."

"I don't think she did the actual stealing. She was an accomplice. She was supposed to take the heat off. We weren't supposed to discover the switch until later--if at all."

"What are you waiting for, then?"

"Hunh?" John had interrupted his thoughts.

"Aren't you going to the address? If she's there, she won't be expecting us to show up so soon."

"If it will make you happy."

"Go on." John smiled.

"Yes, sir." Steven saluted and walked out. He smiled to himself and congratulated whoever thought up that switch. It was beautiful. He got into his car and headed for the address Rebecca Adamson had given.

He found the building and located her flat on the third floor. He knocked and waited patiently. He knocked again and a young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes answered. "May I help you?"

"Yes. I'm sorry to disturb you at this hour, but is Rebecca Adamson here?"

"You must have the wrong address. There's no one living here by that name."

"This is the address I was given."

"I'm sorry I can't help you."

"You've done enough, thank you." He turned and went down the stairs. "John's really gonna love this."

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

Late the following morning, Steven was making himself a breakfast of eggs and bacon when Dolittle walked in. "Can I get you anything?"

"Don't interrupt your meal. I'll help myself." John poured himself a cup of coffee. "I went to Bond Street and checked the files. That's not the address of Rebecca Adamson."

"I know. I went there last night and the woman who answered the door was the one who came here yesterday."

"Are you sure?" John sipped his coffee.

"Suspicious. Rebecca #1, we'll call her, never fidgeted. Most women when they're as nervous as she claimed, bite their nails or twirl their hair. She did nothing. That led me to believe it was a wig. If you don't go for that, maybe the fact that her eyebrows were blonde will help."

"Would you believe I never noticed that?" John picked up a piece of bacon and nibbled on it.

"You look, but you do not see, Watson." Steven finished his breakfast. "Now that we know who, we have to find out why."

"Get yourself ready to go, and I'll do the dishes."

Steven stared at his friend. "What do you have in mind?"

"We are going to visit the real Rebecca Adamson who is home sick from work."

Steven smiled. "As long as I get to drive." John knew Steven's driving was a nerve-wracking experience, but agreed anyway.

When Steven came back downstairs dressed to face the world, he found Dolittle waiting in a clean kitchen. "Now you have a job to fall back on."

"Very funny. Are you ready to go?"

"Sure." He picked his keys up off the table. "But are you?" he grinned.

They walked to the garage where Steven kept his red Alvis Firebird. Once on the road, Steven started slowly then speeded up just to aggravate John. Over the sound of the wind, Dolittle gave him Rebecca's address. "She lives with her mother!" he shouted.

"Then we'd better make a good impression!"

Steven stopped the car in front of a small house with an immaculate small front lawn. "Here we are. I'll let you do the talking and speak only when spoken to."

"I'll believe that when I see it," John said as he stood and walked to the front door. "Remember that." He rang the doorbell and an older woman answered. "Mrs. Adamson? I am Inspector Dolittle from Scotland Yard. We'd like to talk to your daughter, if we may."

Mrs. Adamson seemed quite ill at ease. "She hasn't been feeling well."

"We are aware of that. She is not under arrest; she's not even under suspicion. We would just like to ask her a few questions."

Mrs. Adamson let them in and gave Steven a questioning look. "And who might you be?"

"The Inspector's associate, ma'am." He removed his hat. "James Stuart."

"Oh." Mrs. Adamson was mildly shocked. "Your Grace. I'll tell Rebecca you're here. Please make yourselves comfortable." She rushed out of the room.

John looked at him. "Thank you," he remarked sarcastically.

"What's wrong? I spoke when spoken to."

"But did you have to use your real name?"

"It helped, didn't it? I know when to hold back on information." He smiled. "The ball's back in your court," he said as he gave a slight nod towards the door.

John turned and saw Mrs. Adamson with her daughter. The woman who had pretended to be Rebecca had studied her part well. She was about 5'6" with long brown hair and hazel eyes. He complexion was pale, but that was due to the 'flu. She came in, sat on the couch, gave Steven a look of disbelief, then turned her attention to Dolittle. "How can I help you, Inspector?"

"I have a few questions to ask you regarding the theft that took place at you place of work."

"I had heard about that in the news."

"A woman went to visit his Grace last night and claimed to be you. She had the jewels and said she found them on her bureau. She made a statement at the Yard but got away with the gems."

"What has this to do with me?"

"We just have to ask if anyone had talked to you or seen you prior to the burglary. This woman took your place at work and was accepted. She must have known names, dates, and what-not," said Steven, breaking his promise.

John rolled his eyes, but Rebecca answered. "I remember a young man taking an interest in me. He was sweet and seemed genuinely interested in my work. He used to come pick me up afterwards and we'd go out."

"What did he look like?"

"His hair varied from blond to light brown, and, depending on the light, his eyes were either blue or green."

"Height? Build?"

"In build he was very similar to you, your Grace. His name was Robert Cassidy."

"How long ago was this?"

"About a month."

John thanked her for her assistance. "If you hear from Cassidy again, or remember anything else, please notify me at the Yard."

"I hope you get well soon," said Steven before following John out the door. "So? What's our next line of investigation? Are we going to try and locate Cassidy?"

"You sound eager."

"Whoever it was used my technique."

"So?"

"So I want to know who it was."

"You can come back with me to the Yard and behave yourself, or go back and finish cleaning house."

"You wouldn't talk to me like that unless you wanted me to do something."

"You are only acting as a consultant in this instance, you realize, so I don't want you stirring up trouble."

"Me? Stir up trouble? C'mon, John, you're joking."

"Just drive me back. I'll ask them to check the files for Cassidy, then I have a little matter you might be interested in."

"Oh? Aren't you going to enlighten me?"

"I thought you liked surprises."

"Only when I'm behind them."

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

"So this was your little surprise!" Steven called from amidst a sea of tousle-haired boys.

"Don't you like football?" asked John, laughing.

"Yeah, but track and field are more my style."

"You can't leave now. Wouldn't be cricket, would it?"

"You're enjoying this, aren't you?"

"Every single minute."

Steven bent down and whispered to the boys. They then ran over and surrounded Dolittle, cheering. "I'm not going to be the only one making a fool of himself," he remarked.

They played an inspiring gone with Steven's team winning by one goal in spite of a "slight accident"--Steven tripped over John's outstretched leg. One of the boys on Steven team rushed away with the ball and scored while the others had stopped to check on him. He laughed and limped off the field. "You should know that crime doesn't pay, especially in your position."

"It worked for you."

"Yeah, but I was caught."

They reached the car. "I guess this means I have to drive," said John.

"Ha! So you had an ulterior motive! I knew you weren't thrilled by my driving, but to injure me..?"

"Oh, quiet down. They should have found out about Cassidy by now."

They arrived back at Scotland Yard and received a few stares. Steven had almost forgotten they were dirty and sweaty. These people must have thought they had taken part in a dramatic chase. He sat down in Dolittle's office and propped his leg up on the desk. He closed his eyes and relaxed. He heard John enter, walk quietly behind the desk, sit down, and flip through the pages. "So, does he have a record?"

"I thought you were asleep. He only has a few minor offenses."

"How few is 'few'?"

"Thirty."

"Thirty? How old is he?" Steven opened his eyes.

"Twenty-four going on twenty-five."

"He's been quite busy. Let me see his history." Steven read the report. "Broken home...reform school...arrests...repeat offender. Sounds like a real lovely fella."

"I think he's turned to cons now, especially if he's behind the switch. He even duped you."

"Don't rub it in." He handed back the sheet and massaged his ankle. "I can stop by the address. It's the same one the girl gave us."

"He's got to be the one, then. Everything points that way."

"Do you still have your connections from your safe-cracking days?"

"Yeah."

"You might do some more checking on the gems and ask them to keep an eye out for Cassidy."

"And you're going to visit the flat," he stated.

"I have your permission? Thank you, John. I won't let you down." He rose and walked slowly to the outer offices.

"Can you drive?"

"Even if I can't, I will." He saluted and left.

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

Steven drove to the flat with no major problems. Neither Cassidy nor the mystery woman were in. He picked the lock and entered. It was comfortable furnished and, in the kitchen, he found some papers with written details about Rebecca's life and duties at work. These definitely were the people who committed the crime. He never found out anymore as he was knocked unconscious from behind.

He woke up to find himself tied hand and foot lying on the floor of what he assumed to be the butler's pantry. He examined the knots and tried his best to untie them. His feet were no problem, it was his hands that cost time. He had loosened the rope when he heard voices. It seemed that Cassidy and the fake Rebecca were coming to check on him. He replaced the rope loosely about his feet and lay back, pretending to be unconscious. They didn't even check his bonds. Very amateurish.

He groggily got to his feet and walked to the door. He heard them arguing over what to do with him. "So, what are we going to do?" she asked.

"Leave him."

"We can't keep a duke locked in our pantry!"

"At least he won't starve to death."

"Oh, Robert."

"C'mon, we've got to pack."

"What about him?"

"Oh, he'll be out for awhile yet. I gave him a little something to help." He chuckled.

Steven heard their retreating footsteps and worked at opening the lock. So, they had drugged him. That added a time limit. He had to get the information out of this flat and back to his place before the drug took effect. The door opened and he crept to the kitchen table. The papers were still there. He took them in hand and ran dizzily down the stairs to his car and drove back home.

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

John checked with some of his old contacts and asked them about the jewels. "You must've heard something."

"You're a traitor, Dolittle. You've given up your past, left us behind."

"Would I be here now?"

"It's the copper in you. You're just askin' questions 'bout a theft. Nothin' 'bout the wife."

"If I had really turned into a hard copper, I would've turned you in. Just tell me about Cassidy."

" 'E's got a quick temper and might kill if pushed hard. 'E's got a rep in these parts for takin' risks, no matter what the cost. 'E 'ad a great respect for the Eagle and practically worshipped 'im. Some might say 'e's a little crazy and ready to go off the deep end."

"Wonderful. Steven's gone to Cassidy's to gather proof."

"You'd better go 'elp. At the rate 'e's goin', Cassidy'll soon believe there's only room for one Eagle."

"Thanks." John drove to Cassidy's flat and arrived in time to see a couple leave the building. Their voices carried to him.

"How was I to know he'd pick the lock?" she asked.

"He was a thief. You should have known," he replied.

"You should have tied the ropes tighter, or maybe given him a stronger dose."

"He's probably gone back to his house. We'll just surprise him and get those papers back."

John knew a shorter route to Steven's and drove there to witness the exchange. He parked down the road and found the front door slightly open. He closed it behind him and saw Steven asleep on the couch. He smiled and hid in the closet to wait for Cassidy and the woman.

He heard the door and saw a young brown-haired man enter, followed by a blonde. They saw Steven and Cassidy prodded the girl to kneel and whisper to Steven. "What do I say?"

"Talk softly, like you're tryin' to wake him up."

"Will he hear me through the drug?" He nodded. "Steven, it's time to get up now. You have a busy day ahead of you." Steven mumbled something. "What did you say?"

"Don't wanna."

She looked at Cassidy, who motioned for her to continue. "But you promised to take me out today."

Steven opened his eyes to a slit. "Victoria?" He was still drugged. "I'm still a little tired. Maybe later." He closed his eyes.

Cassidy's eyes looked wild. "He thinks you're his dead wife! Ask him about the papers." He grinned. "I don't want him ruining the perfect crime."

"Steven, where are those papers you had earlier? I'd like to look them over."

Steven yawned. "In my jacket pocket. Why do you want 'em?"

"I'm curious to know what you're working on." She found them and handed them to Cassidy. "Now, you go back to sleep and I'll promise to be quiet."

Cassidy looked them over to make sure they were all there. "Out of the way." He stood over Steven and took out a syringe. "Good-bye, your Grace."

"What are you doing? You can't kill him!" The woman grabbed his arm.

"Let go, Jo! I've got to! He'll come after us! It's either him or me!"

Jo pleaded. "If you kill him and they arrest you, it'll be a death sentence! Please? We can get away to America or Europe before he comes to!"

"Maybe." Cassidy slowly calmed down. "We at least have those gems and I've tarnished the reputation of the Eagle."

"What about that poor Adamson girl?"

"She's probably lost her job because of your impersonation and may never work in a jewelry store again."

"We'd better go before he wakes up, or we'll definitely be caught."

"Right." They took the papers and went out to their car.

John stepped into the room and dialed the Yard. "Check all flights for America and Europe for one Robert Cassidy. Age 24, about 5'10 with brown hair and hazel eyes. He'll be traveling with a young blonde woman with blue eyes, maybe 23 years of age. Answers to the name of Jo. Also, send a doctor to 11 St. James Square; his Grace has been drugged." He replaced the receiver, sat on a chair facing the couch, and watched.

Twenty minutes later, the doctor arrived. "What would you like me to do, Inspector?"

"I know he's been drugged. I want to know what type, the dosage, and how long he'll be out."

The doctor checked Steven's vital signs and found the puncture mark on his right arm. "How long ago was it given?"

"Not more than two hours."

"From what I can see, I would think it was just a sleeping drug in a marginal dose. Nothing too severe. He just needs to sleep it off."

"Is there any way to bring him out of it?"

The doctor took out a syringe and prepared to inject a solution into Steven's arm. "This is just a stimulant which should bring him about. Once it wears off, he will need sleep."

John watched as the solution was released into Steven's bloodstream. "How long will it last? An estimated figure."

"It's hard to say. A few hours, possibly. He's starting to come around."

Steven's eyelids fluttered open. "Hi, John." He noticed the doctor. "What happened?" Then he remembered. "They drugged me." He felt his jacket pocket. "They're gone. I had papers proving they impersonated Rebecca and pulled the job."

"You gave them away," John told him.

"I what?"

"You gave the papers to Cassidy because when the girls spoke to you, in your drugged state, you thought she was Victoria."

"And how do you know this?"

"I was hiding in the closet." Steven was about to ask why when John continued. "We didn't have concrete evidence against them. I went to their flat just as they were leaving and heard where they were going. I took a shortcut and got here first."

"So, you've taken to hiding in closets, eh? A new high for the CID." He yawned and sat up on the couch. "I guess we'd better get going and search for those two."

John watched as he stood. "What would you do in a situation like this?"

"Dover."

"Dover?"

"Take a ferry to France then a plane from Paris. Definitely Dover."

John thanked the doctor and the two left for Dover in John's Car. Due to the hour, there wasn't much traffic and they spotted Cassidy's car just outside Deal. "There. Straight ahead. That's their car."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"Okay. Pass them, then arrange a blockage on the road. From here, this is the only road to Dover."

"You'd better duck so they don't see you."

Steven did so as John drove by them, passing on the right. He peered in the mirror. "He looks a bit miffed."

"Miffed? He's positively fuming."

Steven looked out the window and saw the Channel ahead of them. "You'd better do it soon. The turn-off is coming up."

John prepared himself. "Hang on." He swerved and the rear wheels skidded sideways, blocking the road so the only way past was a narrow strip along the cliff. He got out and loosened a part of the engine to give "proof" to his accident.

Steven clambered over the seat and crouched in the back so Cassidy and Jo wouldn't be able to see him when they approached. He heard a car stop and a man's voice. "Can I help?"

"I'm not really sure what's wrong. I skidded on the road and the engine conked out."

"Here, let me take a look." As he walked forward, John backed up until he stood by Jo.

"Robert," she said.

"This is your problem," he said peering under the bonnet. "What is it, Jo?" He looked up to see Jo in handcuffs. "What kind of game are you playing at?"

"Just a little game of pretend, Robert," said Steven as he got out of the car. "He's a police detective pretending to be a helpless driver. Just like Jo pretended to be Rebecca and you pretended to be me." He was standing beside the bonnet now.

Cassidy let loose a cry of anger and rushed him. Steven was knocked to the ground and Cassidy quickly placed his hands about his throat. Steven tried to wriggle free but Cassidy tightened his grip. Steven finally found the strength and leverage to push Cassidy off and staggered away. John tried to get to him, but Jo hampered his moves. Cassidy tried again. The two fell, rolling on the ground, getting closer to the cliff edge. Soon, Steven's head was dangling over the edge and he couldn't help but notice the long drop. With renewed and desperate strength, he lifted and pushed with his arms and legs. Cassidy plunged over the edge.

"ROBERT!"

John left the girl grieving and went to help Steven. "For a minute, I didn't think you were going to make it."

"I've looked Death in the face many times before and every tome, I think the distance between our noses is getting shorter and shorter." Steven walked over to Jo. "I'm truly sorry. I didn't want it to happen."

She looked at him with tear-rimmed eyes. "He lived thinking he was you. I guess it was fate that he died at your hands." Steven nodded and they put her in the car and drove back to London.

On the way, Steven tried to engage her in conversation, but she had been informed of her rights and was remaining silent.

When they reached Scotland Yard, Steven went straight to Dolittle's office and relaxed in a chair, his feet propped on the desk. "I guess that shot the doctor gave me is wearing off," he mumbled.

He was almost asleep when John returned. "Wake up! I'll drive you home." He laughed as he hit Steven's feet.

"Okay." Steven yawned.

John helped him up and they walked out to John's car. Once inside, Steven put his head back and closed his eyes. "So what did she have to say?"

Nothing, yet, but I think she will. The Deal police searched the car and found the papers and gems."

"Mmmm," Steven replied.

"I think she just went along with Cassidy out of love for the most part. Greed probably ran a close second. After all, that time in your flat, she prevented him from killing you." John glanced and saw that Steven was almost asleep. "Just a little longer."

He pulled up in front of Steven's townhouse and went around to the passenger side. He opened the door, put Steven's left arm about his shoulders as he lifted him out of the car, and walked to the front steps. He then took Steven's key from his pocket, unlocked the door, and led him upstairs and deposited him on his bed. "That doctor wasn't kidding when he said you'd have to sleep."

John then played nursemaid and removed Steven's shoes and covered him with a blanket. With a quick look at his sleeping face, John realized how out-of-place that mustache was. The only thing to do now was obvious. He went into the bathroom and returned with razor, cream, and cloth and removed the mustache. "This is the most cooperative I've ever seen him," he said with a smile as he wiped off the last patches of shaving cream.

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blazoningpen
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