?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Title: The Purloined Lord
Series: The Eagle Chronicles.
Word Count 8359
Summary Steven is in a car accident and Jamie is kidnapped




25. The Purloined Lord


February 1958

The storm was really acting up now. Of all the bad timing in the world, his sister had the worst. Why did she have to choose now to make a trip to India? Steven had been enjoying the peaceful life in Brighton and now he had to rush up to London and be "monarch pro tem". He thought over the different things he had to do. He'd have to notify Jamie of the change in plans. In the morning he'd meet with the ministers who would fill him in on the happenings in the political arena. Then he had to-- "What the hell does that driver think he's doing?" Steven couldn't say anymore because the other car hit him broadside and knocked him into a steep ravine. He opened the door and dove away from the crash. As he rolled, he hit his head on a rock and fell unconscious.

Two hours later, the flames from the crash were seen and reported. The firemen who came to put it out found Steven lying five feet away, blood caked along the side of his face. "Call for an ambulance! We've got the duke of Edinburgh here with a head injury!" They rushed Steven to the hospital. He was conscious of movement halfway through the trip and then he blacked-out again.

In the emergency room, the doctor did a preliminary inspection of Steven's injuries before operating. "There are minor lacerations and abrasions on his arms and legs. According to the paramedics, there are no major injuries other than his head. Prep him right away."

When he woke, he had no idea where he was. It was too clean to be a home. He raised himself from the bed. He barely sat up before he fell back again. The pain in his head was unbearable. All doubt of where he was vanished when a man walked into his room. A hospital.

"Feeling better today, Mr. Taylor?"

"I'm sorry, but you must have the wrong room."

"Oh, I'm sorry. What is your name, then?"

"I...don't know. Why did you call me Taylor?"

"That was the identification we found in your pocket. Does anything click?"

"No, but if that ID was in my pocket, then that must be me. What was my first name?"

"Do you know any other Taylors?"

"Yeah, that guy, the duke of Edinburgh, doesn't he use that name? If you think I'm him, you're crazy."

"Who I think you are is not important. It's who you think you are that counts." The doctor, not wanting to cause any further trauma, told him his first name was Edward.

The doctor left the room. A man who was waiting in the hall walked up to him. "Well, how is he?"

"A severe case of general retrograde amnesia." The man looked puzzled. "In layman's terms, he has no memory whatsoever of his life before the accident. Not even his name. I've called him Edward Taylor."

"Why Edward?"

"He wouldn't believe he was Steven Taylor, and, in his state, we shouldn't pressure him into thinking that."

"What are his chances of a full recovery?"

"He will recover his memory, I just don't know how long it will take."

"What do you mean?"

"Most of the time, recovery is spontaneous, coming in spurts, and at other times, practically all at once. He also won't remember anything that happens to him in this state."

"Nothing?"

"Possibly under hypnosis he would, but we can't be sure."

"Thank you very much, Dr. Blake. I'll be keeping in touch." He began to walk away. "Has anyone tried to contact his sister or son?"

"We notified his son's school and he will be coming down by train. No one's been able to contact his sister, but we keep trying."

Inspector John Dolittle left the hospital. He had been a friend of Steven's since the spring of 1942 when they worked together in the Underground in France. He couldn't believe that the memory of such an active life could be wiped-out so completely. Dolittle knew that another car was involved in the accident; tire tracks proved it. Whether or not it was deliberate, it still had to be investigated.

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

Jamie waited outside the headmaster's office, unsure as to why he had been called. As far as he knew, he had done nothing wrong. The door opened. "Stuart, step into my office. I have something to tell you." Inside, Jamie remained standing until he was told to sit. "I received some bad news this morning. Your father was in a car accident. He has a head injury and a few abrasions. Apart from that..." His voice drifted off.

"What else, sir?"

"Very perceptive, Jamie. His doctor, Blake, said something about amnesia and feels that the presence of family and friends might help with his recovery. Can you packed within the half-hour?"

"Packed, sir?"

"Yes, Jamie. You are going to London. I'll call for a taxi to take you to the train station."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Jamie left the office in a trance and walked across the quad to his dorm.

Fifteen minutes later he was met by the headmaster who walked him to a waiting taxi. "We're truly sorry about your father and hope that all will be better soon." He shook his hand.

"Thank you, sir."

The headmaster put his head by the driver's window. "To the station. He's to catch the 12:07 for London."

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

Dr. Blake decided to try some more therapy. He walked into the room. "How are you feeling, Edward?"

"Okay. My head's not as bad. What time is it?"

"Close to 2:00. I just want to ask you a few questions. If you feel tired, tell me and I'll stop."

"Sure."

"Do you remember coming to the hospital?"

"Vaguely. I remember the paramedics checking my head and putting me in the ambulance."

"Anything before that? The crash?"

"Crash? I remember tumbling, but I don't remember any crash."

"Fine. We'll leave it at that. Have you eaten something?"

"I wasn't hungry before but I am now."

"I'll have a nurse bring in something for you." He stepped into the hall.

A nurse came up to him. "Dr. Blake, we've just had an urgent phone call from Inspector Dolittle."

"Yes?"

"Young Jamie's disappeared. The police suspect a kidnapping."

"Fine. That's just what I needed to hear. Don't tell his Grace. If he reads it in the paper, hopefully he won't connect it with himself."

"Yes, doctor."

"Oh, and, Nurse, thank you for telling me right away."

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

After visiting the hospital, John Dolittle drove to New Scotland Yard. He knew that he was working on a major case. It looked like an attempted murder. Lord knows how many people want to kill Steven Taylor. Piled on his desk were case in which Steven had participated. John went through them, searching for a name--or names--that coincided with those on a recent parole list. There was only one: Jonathan Bannister.

Bannister had murdered his twin brother in 1953 and it was in Steven's evidence that he was convicted. Somehow, the court accepted his plead of temporary insanity and he was given a 2o year sentence in stead of the death penalty. He had been released only after five years for good behavior. That was two days ago. Dolittle was on to something. All he had to do was prove it.

Sergeant Thompson, Dolittle's assistant, entered. "Sir, our man who was sent to pick up Jamie Stuart says he never got off the train. He searched it, but couldn't find him. He says a witness saw the boy get off at an earlier stop with a man in his mid-thirties. He was dressed in a grey suit and tie, had brown hair and eyes, and was well-spoken. The witness also said that his hands contradicted his manner."

"Come again?"

"His hands were rough, as if he had been using them at hard labor."

"This is all beginning to fall into place. Let me try this theory out."

"Go ahead."

"Okay. His Grace is driving to London on a rainy night on a minor street. A second car comes alongside and pushes him off the road. No one suspects attempted murder because of the bad road conditions. He's left for dead. Our man knows that the next-of-kin have to be notified, so he has the school's phone line tapped. When he hears that his Grace is alive, but with amnesia, he plans to kidnap his son."

"Sounds logical, but why? And who is he?"

"I have a suspicion that it's Jonathan Bannister. He was imprisoned when Steven gave evidence that he murdered his own twin. He felt that Steven ruined his life. I guess that's a good enough reason."

"How are we going to find him? What if he isn't the one?"

"He has to report to his parole officer. We'll follow him from there. If he doesn't have Jamie, we start over again."

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

Jamie hated train rides. They were so monotonous and boring. The landscape outside was the same and you could only read so much before you got a headache. The headmaster tried to talk him into buying a ticket for a private compartment. If he were feeling noble, he probably would have, but, as things were, he was feeling depressed and thought maybe some company would help.

About halfway through the trip, a man stopped at the compartment door and asked if he could have a seat. Jamie motioned for him to sit down then looked out the window. Every once and awhile, he would glance at the man. He was maybe 34 with brown hair and eyes. His grey suit was made of wool--a light wool. He was glad he paid attention to his father's speeches on observation. It was a game in itself.

The man noticed the boy watching and smiled. "Train rides must get boring for a boy your age."

"After a time they do."

"Would you like to play a came of cards? I've a deck with me."

"That would be fun. Thanks."

They played gin rummy and some other games Jamie had never heard of before. An older woman came in and offered advice to Jamie on playing. The man asked if she would like to play; she said no.

"Why are you going to London?" the man asked Jamie. "Shouldn't you be in school?"

"My father's in hospital and I'm going to see him."

"Is it serious?" His concern seemed quite genuine.

"Sort of. I'm not really sure of the details. I just found out this morning."

"Would you like me to give you a lift? We'll have to get off at the next stop where I left my car."

Jamie hesitated. "I think someone's going to meet me."

"I'm sure this kind lady will deliver the message that you've been given a ride. Won't you?"

The woman nodded. "Who will it be?"

"I'm not sure. My headmaster just said it was arranged that someone would meet me."

"Well, if anyone asks, I'll know."

"Yes. thank you so much."

The man ushered Jamie towards the door and out into the station. "My car's over here." He put Jamie's bag in the back seat of a grey sedan.

They drove out into traffic. "I thought the hospital was in the other direction."

"It is."

Jamie then realized he couldn't unlock the door or open the window. He knew he should have paid more attention to his father's lectures on strangers.

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

The next morning, Dr. Blake let Steven see a newspaper. He waited while Steven read the article on the front page. Would that picture of Jamie make something click? Would he want to leave and go look for him? He'd have to wait and see.

When the doctor brought him the paper, Steven was elated. On the front page was a snapshot of a young boy. The caption underneath read: Lord Jamie Stuart, adopted son of the duke of Edinburgh who disappeared yesterday. Steven stared at the photograph. He looked familiar, but, of course, he was famous. He had probably been in the paper before. The article read:

DUKE'S SON DISAPPEARS
Police Suspect Kidnapping
Lord Jamie Stuart, adopted son of the duke of Edinburgh, disappeared en route to visit his father in hospital. He was on the 12:07 train from Dalkeith, Scotland to Kings Cross Station. He never reached the station. A witness stated that the boy became friendly with a man in his compartment while playing cards. The man then offered the boy a ride to the hospital. They got off at _________.
Inspector John Dolittle, of Scotland Yard, who is in charge of the investigation, believes strongly that Jamie Stuart's disappearance ties in with his father's accident. He thinks both were deliberate and possibly done by the same man.


The article then went on to describe how Steven found and adopted Jamie.

"Poor kid. How come nobody's doing anything?" he asked Blake.

"The police are conducting an investigation. It's not like they're sitting there twiddling their thumbs."

"It's just that they've so much procedure to go through, it could take forever. When can I get out of here?"

"Two more days at the most. Why? Do you want to go search for him?"

"I'm sure I'd get better results faster." Why did I say that? I sound so sure of myself. Am I?

"It's time for another session. Are you ready?" Steven nodded and they began.

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

Dolittle and Thompson made the rounds of parole officers asking if Jonathan Bannister had reported in. Those who had read the papers that morning guessed why they were looking for him. "You think he kidnapped the boy?" "Did he try to kill his Grace?" John tried to remain neutral; not giving straightforward answers, but it didn't work. They knew what he was thinking.

They found Bannister's parole officer just before she got off for lunch. "Will it be long? I have an appointment."

"We just need some information."

"I'm not sure if I'll be able to give it to you. What does it concern?"

"One of your parolees. He may have broken parole before he reported to you."

"Oh, my. Let me check the files. What's his name?"

"Bannister. Jonathan Bannister."

The woman looked through the files. "Yes. He came in yesterday afternoon just before closing. What would you like to know?"

"Where was he the two days between his release and his visit here yesterday?"

"He said he had gotten some new clothes, rented a flat, car, and took care of some other necessities."

"Did he speak to you before he showed?"

"No. Why do you need to know that?"

"This man had a very strong grudge against the duke of Edinburgh. Strong enough to attempt murder."

"I didn't realize..."

"Did he give you his phone number?"

"No. He didn't have one at the time. He said he would call me as soon as he got one. How is his Grace?"

"He's off the critical list, but will be in hospital a day or so longer."

In the car driving back to Scotland Yard, Thompson remarked, "She must be one of the most inept, inexperienced parole officers on the payroll."

"Just because of this bit with Bannister? Don't judge her over that. He's a real smooth-talker. When we get back to the office, get Dr. Blake on the phone for me."

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

"Thank you, nurse." Blake picked up the phone. "What can I do for you, Inspector Dolittle?"

"I think I've figured out who's responsible for this. It might be a few days until we find him. How is he doing?"

"He read the paper this morning. He seemed to recognize Jamie from the photo then dismissed it because of who he was. He was upset that nobody was doing anything and said that he could get better results faster. I'll have to let him out day after tomorrow unless he suffers a major relapse--which I doubt."

"I'm sure Bannister will try to get at him once he's released. I'd like to have a man stay with him if possible. The man I have in mind read psychology at Cambridge so I'm sure he could help. I'll have him report to you tomorrow to get some background and meet the patient. Is that fine with you?"

"If this man of yours knows what he's doing, I have no objections."

The inspector said good-bye and Blake hung up the phone. He wondered what he had let himself get into. This man was probably a smart know-it-all who had gone into policing instead of psychology for the pension. If his patient weren't such an important figure, he wouldn't have bothered.

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

Jamie finished eating the greasy fish 'n' chips out of the newspaper wrapper. The man, whose initials he learned were J.B., brought him here after riding around the city to confuse him. He swallowed his ale as he took in the situation. The flat was composed of a bedroom, bathroom, and living room-cum-kitchen. The bedroom, where he was now, had only two mattresses lying on the floor and a packing crate with miscellaneous pieces of clothing inside. The bathroom was just a sink and toilet. The front room had a table, two chairs, a small refrigerator, portable stove, and a crate filled with dishes.

He crumpled up the paper and tossed it into the corner, a dustbin didn't exist in this neighborhood. He wondered why J.B. was doing this. If it were for ransom, he would have written a note by now. Why the waiting? How was his father? What were the police doing?

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

P.C. Tristan Forbes waited for Inspector Dolittle to get to the point. He had been surprised when he was asked to report instead of going out on his regular beat. He moved in his seat, trying to find a comfortable position for his 5'7" frame. "The point, Forbes," said Dolittle, "is that we need someone with your qualifications in psychology."

"Why, sir?"

"This is in the strictest confidence. It has to do with the duke of Edinburgh. He has amnesia. His doctor says he has to be released tomorrow. I'm afraid that another attempt will be made on his life and I want him to have some protection. Since you studied psychology at Cambridge, you will know how to handle him in his condition. I told Dr. Blake that I'd send you over today so you can make an acquaintance with him. You'll be posing, for awhile, as an intern so his Grace won't be upset. I've set up an appointment for you at 12:00 to talk to Dr. Blake. He'll give you details on what you'll be doing."

"What about--?"

"You will be paid for the work you do. It will be more than you get now, but I'm not sure how much. You will also be staying with him at his townhouse. That's all. You'd better get going."

"Excuse me, sir, but the meeting isn't for another hour and a half and it only takes half an hour to get there."

"You can't pass yourself off as an intern in a constable's uniform. You'll go home, change, then go to the hospital. That should take up your time."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." Tristan left for home.

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

"Dr. Blake, there's a Tristan Forbes to see you."

"Thank you, nurse. Send him in, will you?" Tristan walked into the office. "Ah, Mr. Forbes, how good to meet you. I hope you will be able to help his Grace when he is released tomorrow. Just for the record. may I see your portfolio?" Tristan handed it to him and waited for the results. Blake looked it over and was pleased. "Very good, Tristan. May I call you that?" Trist and nodded. "Now, let me tell you of his condition."

Afterwards, they walked to Steven's room. He was lying on the bed reading a novel. When they came in, he looked up. "Is it time for another session?" He glanced questioningly at Tristan.

"No. This is Tristan Forbes. He's with the psychology department. He'll be going home with you tomorrow. I just thought you might want to get to know each other as you may be spending quite a lot of time together." He left.

Tristan pulled up a chair. "Mind?" he asked.

Steven shook his head. This guy doesn't have the look of a psychologist. His face was tan and his whole manner seemed to be the direct opposite of what one expected in a shrink. Those grey eyes, however...

"I can see you feel a bit uncomfortable. I would be too, if I had been told that a total stranger would be living with me." He took a sip of coffee. "So, to make you feel more at ease, I'll tell you a little bit about myself. I was born in Portsmouth in 1926. I received my degree in psychology from Cambridge and my hobby is criminology. Any questions?"

"Just one. Why are you doing this?"

"They asked me and I said 'yes'. Is that okay with you? I'll admit, it's the first time I've done this."

"Don't worry," said Steven. "I've never had amnesia before--I think."

The two talked on. Mainly, it was Tristan who carried the conversation with Steven interjecting phrases in-between.

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

Dolittle sat in his office waiting for Thompson to report in from the parole offices. He knew this was a long shot, but he had to try. If he knew where Bannister was, he could keep an eye on him and make sure that he wouldn't do anything to Steven. The radio crackled and he picked up the receiver. "Thompson? What is it?"

"He's heading towards Soho. He might have the boy hidden there somewhere. I'm following him now. I'll call later when I have the address. Out."

Soho. Jamie could be anywhere. He tried to do some work, but he couldn't concentrate. When would Thompson call back? The radio again. "Go ahead, Thompson."

"Well, sir, it's an old, dilapidated block; the kind used mainly by junkies and bums. He could have Jamie hidden practically anywhere."

"I know. Just keep your eyes open. Give me the address and I'll send someone to relieve you in a few hours." He wrote down the address on a piece of paper. As he did so, he prayed that Bannister wouldn't notice that he was being followed until it was too late.

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

Bannister could see the car from the parole office across the street. It could be that they were verifying his address. Or, he panicked, it could be the police suspected him already. He went to check on the boy. He was sitting up on a mattress, reading. "What's that?"

"An American classic: 'The Purloined Letter'. My father gave it to me. What's going on? You look upset."

"Why should you care?"

"It'll probably affect me somehow, that's all."

"Let's just say we might have some unwelcome guests." He paused. "You hungry?"

"Not really. Police follow you? About time."

"You'd better hold your tongue if you want to eat. What do you want tonight?"

"Whatever you can afford, my good man."

"Sarcasm will not help you any." Bannister checked his wallet and left the flat, locking the door behind him.

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

Sgt. Thompson saw Jonathan Bannister leave the block of flats and stop at a corner shop where he picked up two orders of fish 'n' chips. He was either very hungry or had company. Bannister walked back to the building. Thompson picked up his radio and called Dolittle. "He's holed up in a flat with Jamie. He just picked up two dinners."

"Okay. Keep your eyes open. Talk to the vendor. I'll send you some relief."

Thompson mussed himself up, got out of the car, and walked towards the chip shop. "Ev'nin', guv. Wha' c'n I do ya for?"

"Some o' your best, mate." Thompson leaned on the counter. "Oo was that bloke what was 'ere before me?"

"Dunno. Quid." Thompson paid him. " 'E's been 'ere ev'ryday gettin' two orders. Must be 'ungry."

"Yeah, 'e must." Thompson nibbled at his food. It wasn't that bad. "Ta, mate." Thompson walked the long way back to the car and waited.

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

Tristan Forbes went to pick up Steven at the hospital. Their "interview" worked out well and the two took a shining to each other. He felt bad deceiving him by posing as an intern when he was, in fact, a policeman asked to protect him. True, he was qualified to help in this case, he just felt out-of-place working with--or for--such a great man. "I'd better stop thinking like this or I'll depress myself."

Steven was waiting for him in his room. He was wearing a pair of casual khakis and a blue Oxford shirt. "Mr. Forbes. Are we set to go?"

"Yes. Please, call me Tristan or Tris. 'Mr. Forbes' will be too formal for the amount of time we'll be spending together."

"Okay, Tristan. I've already signed out so we can go now. Where will we be staying?"

"At your townhouse in St. James. I know it's surprising. A lot of things will be. You'll just have to take them is stride, is all."

Tris led Steven to his old convertible; something he picked up in a police auction. He put on the radio to listen for news of Jamie, wondering what type of impression it would make on Steven. "The police feel that they might know the location of Jamie Stuart. They are not releasing any details as of yet, but will as things progress."

"That poor kid. The things he must be going through. If the police think they know where he is, why don't they just check the place out?"

"They can't just rush in. They don't know if the man who has him is armed." Tris realized at this point that Steven did not know his own son. This was going to take time.

II


Dolittle went to join the stakeout in the hopes that he'd be there if something happened. He drove out with the next watch and met with Thompson. Of all the things associated with police work, surveillance was probably the most overrated. All you did was sit there, staring at a door or window, waiting for something to happen while eating stale sandwiches. The exception in this case was fish 'n' chips in place of sandwiches.

He was almost asleep when Thompson nudged him awake. "Sir, he's at the window looking at us. There someone else there, someone shorter."

"Give me those glasses!" He grabbed them and looked for himself. Bannister was definitely trying to block the boy from view but missed at one point. "That's Jamie, all right."

He and Thompson pretended to leave and drove off to the opposite block. They parked the car down the road and walked to the back door of the building. Dolittle checked his revolver and they went in.

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

Jonathan Bannister, when he returned from getting dinner, noticed that the man who had been sitting in the brown sedan across the street was getting out and walking towards the chip shop. Normally, he wouldn't be so paranoid, but this particular car had been parked there for the past two hours. About half an hour later, a second car pulled up behind it and three men stepped out and walked over to the first. One held a pair of field glasses. "Hey, kid, c'mere!"

Jamie, who had just been let out of his room, walked over. "Yes? What do you want now?"

"No wisecracks. Stand to the side of the window. Do you recognize that man there, the one next to the man with the field glasses? He reminds me of someone. I just can't think of who he is."

"You obviously haven't been reading the papers. That's Chief Inspector Dolittle. He's in charge of this case."

"Oh, yeah. Good friend of your dad's, eh? Okay, that's it. Go clean the cups and stuff." Bannister watched as Dolittle and the other man drove off down the street. Somehow, that doesn't make me feel any better. Dolittle does not have the patience to wait until his quarry is lulled into a false sense of security. No, he'd attack and soon. He sat down with an uneasy feeling to wait.

He didn't have to wait long before he heard the stairs creak. He went into the bedroom, yanked the kid off the mattress, and pulled out his pistol. "You're my insurance." Jamie was totally baffled. He hadn't heard the steps. He was dragged Bannister into the front room and heard the banging on the door. "Is that Inspector Dolittle?"

A voice from the other side of the door answered him. "Bannister, we know it's you! Let the boy go and come out peacefully, or we'll come in and take you!"

"You've got to be out of your mind, Dolittle, if you think I'm gonna give this thing up so easy. Come in and get the boy if you want him."

On the other side of the door, Dolittle cautioned Thompson about shooting directly at Bannister. "Knowing him, he'll probably be using Jamie as a shield."

They kicked open the door and saw Bannister holding the boy in front of him. "You wouldn't want to shoot a member of the royal family now, would you, Dolittle?" They were at a stand-off. All three had their guns aimed but could not fire.

Dolittle had been in similar situations but never involving a royal personage. He glanced at Thompson then at Jamie. Thompson nodded for he realized what was going on in his superior's mind. He prepared himself for what was to follow. Dolittle gave Jamie a covert sign which, to Dolittle's amazement, he responded to properly. While Bannister was intent on watching Dolittle, Jamie stamped on his foot. Bannister turned on the boy and that was all Dolittle needed. Thompson shot at Bannister while Dolittle made a grab for the boy. He wasn't quick enough. Bannister re-took Jamie and shot Dolittle.

Thompson put down his revolver and went to check on Dolittle. Bannister made his way to the door, pulling Jamie with him. "It was nice to meet you, Inspector. Now, if you would kindly call off your men. My gun might go off." Dolittle nodded and Thompson went to the window and shouted to the men to let Bannister go. He also told them to call an ambulance. "Thank you for your cooperation, gentlemen. Good night."

"Don't think you're going to get away with this, Bannister. You may have won the battle, but there's still the war."

"You forget my secret weapon, Inspector." He pointed at Jamie. "No heroics now." He turned and forced Jamie out the door in front of him.

"We're going to have to be extra-careful in trying to find him now."

"You're not to worry about that now. You're bleeding heavily and are going to hospital." Thompson put pressure on the wound to slow the bleeding.

The ambulance arrived and took Dolittle to the hospital. Before he left, he gave Thompson instructions. "Keep your finger on this case and keep me informed at all times."

*******************************************8

Tristan woke the next morning in Steven's guest room. Steven had recognized the house and knew where everything was. He also knew of all the people in the news. It seemed that he wanted, in a sense, to forget his own personal life. Things were probably getting very tense and he wanted to get away from them, except he couldn't--not in the normal sense--because of who he was. If his life became easier, if he became more comfortable in his "new" identity, he would then return to his normal self. But if all this trouble with Jamie ended tragically, that might never happen.

Tristan finished writing in his journal and went into the kitchen to find Steven making pancakes. "How are you this morning? Glad to be back in the swing of things?"

"It feels great. I know my way around and can fix my own meals. All the things I did before I went into hospital. Well, almost."

The phone rang and Tris went to answer it. "Hello?"

"Is this P.C. Forbes? This is Sgt. Thompson. I have something of importance to relate to you concerning his Grace."

"Go ahead, Sergeant."

"Last night we found where Jamie was. There was a bit of a scuffle and Inspector Dolittle was shot. Bannister got away with the boy."

"How is the Inspector? What hospital is he in?"

"He's doing well. He was shot in the thigh. A bit of muscle damage, not much. He's in St. Bart's. He thinks that Bannister is waiting for his Grace to come after him. Lord only knows what he has planned."

"Should I tell him I'm a policeman now or wait? I don't know how he'll take it. If I tell him I'm a policeman, I'll have to tell him who he is. That just might put him over the edge."

"You'll have to use your own judgment. I'm sure you'll think of something. Maybe his mind is strong enough to take it."

"Thanks for telling me about the Inspector. I'll let you know how things go." Tris hung up the phone and went back into the kitchen.

Steven had the pancakes set on the table. "Who was on the phone?"

"It was Sgt. Thompson from Scotland Yard. He called to tell me that Inspector Dolittle is in hospital after being shot by the man who kidnapped Jamie Stuart."

"They found him? That's wonderful news."

"They found him and lost him again. Bannister--that's the man's name--held Jamie in front of him like a shield, preventing the police from taking any action."

"Why did they tell you this?"

"I'm a policeman. Since I read for psychology, I was the only one qualified to keep an eye on you. We think an attempt might be made on your life."

"Why me? I'm not anyone important. Am I?"

"You are James Richard William Charles Stuart and that man has your son and is waiting for you."

"Okay, enough with the prank. Who are you, really?"

"I told you."

"That means that I'm..." Tris nodded. "Oh, God."

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

Bannister pulled Jamie out of the car. Since it was dark, the boy had no idea where he was. Bannister followed him into the building. Just at a glance, Jamie could tell it was in a better neighborhood. That didn't tell him much; anywhere was better than where he had been. They walked upstairs. Somehow, this building seemed familiar. Maybe it was just the construction; a lot of buildings were built in the same style. They went all the way to the top floor. Bannister opened a flat door with a key. "After you, m'lord."

Jamie went in. "You had this all set, didn't you?"

"One should always be prepared in case of an emergency. Besides, when you plan to hide something, you place it in full sight. Now, right this way to your room."

Jamie went into one of the bedrooms and made himself comfortable on the bed. He wondered about his father and how he was doing. If his amnesia is clearing, he'll try to rescue me which is just what Bannister wants. If it isn't, he's probably just sitting, trying to remember. That's probably worse than my position. Also, how is Inspector Dolittle?

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

"He'll be fine, Sergeant. The operation went well. His leg will be weak for a few days as can be expected. A few muscles were damaged along the bullet's path, but everything should heal well."

"Can I see him? I have something important to tell him."

"Just don't be too long."

Thompson walked down the hall into Dolittle's room. "Hello, sir. Is the pain that bad?"

"Comes and goes. Well, what's been happening?"

"I called his Grace's townhouse this morning and talked to Forbes. I mentioned what happened last night. He realized that he would probably have to tell him that he was a policeman."

"Which means he's have to tell Steven he was a duke."

"Yes, sir. He was going to after he hung up the phone. I have no idea as to how it went."

"I'm sure we'll hear from them. So, you've no news of Bannister or Jamie?"

"No, sir. Not a whisper."

"Don't let him get too far ahead." A nurse walked in. "What is it?"

"Time for your medication, sir."

"I'd best be going, then."

"Keep me posted, Sergeant."

"Yes, sir."

Thompson knew it must be agonizing for Dolittle to be laid up like that. Especially on this case. A madman kidnaps the son of his best friend in the hopes of getting the father. Then, when he almost has the son and kidnapper, hr tries heroics, gets shot then sidelined. Things just weren't working out.

Now everything rested on his shoulders. What a burden! He just hoped that Tristan wasn't rushing anything when he told his Grace who he really was.

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

Steven sat down slowly. "C'mon, Tris. You can't be telling the truth about me."

"How would you know that? In case you need refreshing, you've had--and still have--amnesia."

"How can you prove I am?"

Tristan looked through the newspapers and took out a picture. "Over to the mirror. Now hold this and look."

Steven couldn't believe the resemblance. "Plastic surgery?" He looked questioningly at Tristan, who shook his head. "This is gonna take awhile to sink in."

"I just thought you should know that you're in a dangerous position and why. I'm here to help."

Steven couldn't believe it. He rested his head between his hands, becoming quiet, trying to remember.

Tristan left him alone. He questioned his rushed revelation. Maybe it was too soon. He just hoped his "patient" could take the pressure. He cleaned the breakfast dishes and put away the leftovers. For some reason, he had lost his appetite.

About two hours later, Steven lifted his head as if someone had jerked a string attached to his neck. "Okay, let's go."

"Go where?"

"If the inspector got shot in my behalf and is supposed to be my friend, I should go and talk with him."

"Are you feeling up to it? Psychologically, I mean."

"I thought it out. I should be ready. What do you think?"

"Okay, we'll go. Maybe they'll have some news about Jamie. Just let me get my keys."

On the front stoop was a note to Steven. "Read it on the way."

Steven agreed and opened it on the road. "Great, just what I need."

"What is it?"

"It's from Bannister. He's got Jamie and wants to make a trade."

"What I'd like to know is how he knew you were out of hospital. The press hasn't even been told yet."

"Can you tell me how I became involved with him? Maybe if I know that, I might be able to deal with him."

"I don't know it all that well, but I'll try. You knew that his uncle was going to leave his inheritance to his twin nephews Jonathan and Thomas. It was no secret that Jonathan was the greedier, so you kept an eye on him. It was because of this that you discovered he killed Thomas, trading identities in order to get all the money."

"That's one pretty tough customer. So he vowed revenge. He must have studied my movements."

"Not much research was required. As a royal figure, what you do is of great public interest."

They pulled into a parking space by the front door of the hospital. Tristan noticed Steven's eyes kept darting back and forth, checking every corner for anything out of the ordinary. They went upstairs to Dolittle's room. "Constable Forbes, why did you bring him?"

"Sir, he asked to come. He felt that he was the indirect cause of your injury and wanted to see you. If I am to watch him, I can't very well leave him alone, can I?"

"Yes, you're right, Forbes," Dolittle admitted grudgingly.

"Thank you, sir." He gave an informal salute and stepped back.

"How are you today...John?" asked Steven, a bit nervous.

"Oh, okay. Sometimes the pain kills, then at other times I can barely feel it."

"I'm sorry to have to put you through all of this. It's just that--"

"Don't worry yourself. I was doing my job going after a kidnapped boy. I'm sure if the tables were turned, you would have done the same thing."

"I guess I would have. I'd like to ask a favor of you: could you fill me in on all that's happened? I'd like to help out and I need to know what's going on."

John looked at Tristan. "Is it okay to tell him?"

"He's taking it well and I wouldn't want to upset him by holding it back." Tris smiled, glad that Steven was getting back into the swing of things.

John began reluctantly but soon became enthused in the telling. Steven listened patiently, asking few questions. When Tris realized John was getting tired, he cut the conversation short. "If you need any help," Dolittle said, "get in touch with Sgt.. Thompson."

"We will. Just concentrate on getting well." John settled down to sleep.

Walking through the hallway, Steven asked Tris very earnestly, "Would you mind working with me on this case?"

"Not at all. But as Dolittle didn't retract his orders for me, I have to go with you anyway."

"Well, don't let his orders hold you. I already have enough injured people nagging me."

"The inspector told you not to blame yourself."

"He's not the only one. My wife died because of me, my sister's life was endangered twice, my son now is in danger, and Dolittle's been injured. So, if I say 'go', go."

Tris was shocked. Not at the outburst itself, but at what he said. No one had told him of his wife or sister, so his recall was beginning. Hopefully, he would remember almost everything within a week if it continued at this rate. Tris nodded and walked on in silence.

When they reached the car, Steven paused and looked at Tristan over the roof. "I guess I'm improving. A real streak of true emotion back there."

"That's why I didn't say anything. I was too much in shock. I've never witnessed anything like it before. It's always been one of those exceptions in a textbook."

Steven got into the car. "So I'm well on my way to recovery?"

Tris started the car. "Definitely."

Once on their way, Tris asked, "How come you didn't tell the inspector about the note from Bannister?"

"Why make him worry? He's already got enough problems."

"You still should tell him, or at least tell Thompson."

"If I feel I'm going to need their help, I'll tell them. Until then, I don't want to further endanger Jamie unnecessarily."

"Fine, but just don't try to do it all on your own. You do have a habit of things like that."

"I can't argue with that." Steven smiled. "I'll tell the police just for your sake."

"Gee, thanks."

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

Even though the flat was plusher than the other, Jamie had less freedom. Maybe we're in a more densely populated area of the city. With a place this ritzy, there had to be more people. He walked out of his room towards the kitchen to get something to eat. All the window shades were drawn and tied in place. Bannister was taking no chances. He walked past Bannister's locked bedroom door and listened. Very faintly, he could hear sounds coming through an open window. Of course, he can have his own window open. He knows I can't get in...or can I? Jamie walked back to his room to see if he had anything with which to pick the lock. After a short search, he found a paper clip in with his school papers which Bannister was kind enough to bring along. He heard Bannister coming down the hall and hid the clip in his pillowcase.

Bannister opened the door. "What have you been up to? You've been too quiet."

"Me? I've just been doing schoolwork. There's not much else I can do."

"I thought I heard you in the hall."

"Oh, yeah. I just got a drink of water."

"Good. I just don't want you thinking that it's going to be easier on you because we're in a different place."

"With you hovering around like a guard dog, I know it's only tougher." Bannister smirked and walked out. "But remember, every dog shall have his day!"

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

When they reached the house, Steven noticed another note by the door. He picked it up and read it. After he let it sink in, he passed it to Tristan. "He wants to talk to me before we make the trade. Should I go?"

"It's for 8:00 tonight. I don't see why you shouldn't. He says he'll bring proof that Jamie's alive. I don't think you should pass it up. He's a sly character, though, and might not release Jamie once he has you, but instead, use him as a lever to get you to do what he wants."

"That definitely sounds like him. I'll tell Thompson about it if it'll make you happy, but ask him not to follow. I'll bring my knife. He'll expect that of me."

"As long as you do that, I won't feel so bad. I'll give you 11/2 hours, and if you're not back by then, I'll tell Thompson. Deal?"

"Deal. If anything goes wrong, I want you to know how much I appreciate this."

"Don't get sappy on me. You've held out this long. A little bit more won't hurt."

"Right. Thanks. I normally try to avoid that." He sounded embarrassed. He walked inside.

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

Thompson sat waiting for the doctor to finish with his examination of Dolittle. The doctor came out. "How is he doing?"

"All is healing properly and he should be released in another few days. You can see him if you want."

"Thank you." Thompson walked into the room. "How are you feeling, sir?"

"A bit better. How are things at the Yard? Are there any new leads on Jamie and Bannister?"

"One. His Grace received a note from Bannister asking for a meeting to set up a trade."

"Trade? You mean Taylor's giving himself to Bannister so he'll let Jamie go? I don't think Bannister will keep his part of the bargain."

"He said he was going to bring proof that Jamie was alive. Steven said he was going to bring his knife. He almost wasn't going to tell me, but Forbes convinced him it was best. If he doesn't return in 11/2 hours, Forbes will call us."

"I'm surprised that Steven even told you. Forbes must be pretty persuasive. I hope he knows what he's doing."

"I'm sure he does, sir, even if he is slightly confused at this time. I'll keep you posted on everything going on. I'll probably get the results late tonight, so I'll have to call you in the morning. I have to be going now, sir." Thompson gave a casual salute and walked out of the room, leaving his superior to ponder the thoroughness of the duke's plan.

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

At 7:30, Steven was ready to leave for the rendezvous. He placed his knife in its sheath attached to his right wrist. "Remember, wait the full 11/2 hours before you call Thompson. I might be stuck in traffic," he said with a grin.

"Just don't be foolish and try to follow him to where he's hiding Jamie. He might just want you to do that and have a trap planned."

"Then again, he knows about the amnesia--who doesn't--and think I won't do it. If I do decide to follow him, it'll be just to get the address, I promise."

"I don't know whether I should trust you or not, but I guess I have to. Okay, I won't call until 9:30. Good luck."

Steven got in his car and drove to the meeting place. On his way he mused over everything he had been told of Jonathan Bannister. Would he go through with the trade, or was he doing this just to get a hold of him? There was only one way to find out; he had to go through with it. Maybe this experience would help him get to know himself.

He arrived at exactly 8:00 and yet there was someone waiting for him. The man was about 34 years old. His hair looked brown, Steven really couldn't be sure. He struck a familiar chord in Steven's mind. Maybe it was just the pictures he had seen, maybe not.

"You're looking well, Steven, if I may call you that."

"I have a feeling that even if I said 'no', you would."

"How very perceptive. I would assume that your memory is returning, then."

"It seems that way. Can we get down to business now? I've a feeling you want to be here with me as much as I with you."

"Of course. I propose a trade: you for the boy. Same time and place tomorrow."

"Why don't you just kill me now? Why didn't you before?"

"You don't think I tried? What do you think that crash was? You were supposed to die!"

"So you settled for second best. When you discovered that Jamie could help me, you kidnapped him so I'd be helpless."

"That was the idea. What I didn't count on was that police psychologist staying with you."

"What's your proof that Jamie's okay?"

"Here's his school ring with his initials. Will that do?"

"Fine. I agree to your terms. Until tomorrow." Bannister nodded and Steven walked back to his car. He looked at his watch: 8:45. He had enough time to try and follow Bannister. He drove off and hid in a side street to wait.

Part 2.

Comments

Profile

SPN Dean Writing
blazoningpen
blazoningpen

Latest Month

July 2018
S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Witold Riedel