?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Title: The Purloined Lord
Series: The Eagle Chronicles.
Word Count 8358
Summary Steven is in a car accident and Jamie is kidnapped

Part One





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

After Bannister left at about 7:15, Jamie waited until he heard his car start--the sound was unmistakable--before he got out of his room and picked the lock to Bannister's room. He made his way to the one and only window, pulled the curtain to one side, and looked out. He couldn't believe what he saw. He was looking out onto St. James! No wonder this building seemed so familiar. It was just like his dad's, which, if he wasn't mistaken, was right across the square. This was just too much. Here he was, this close to his father, and he couldn't get to him.

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

After Steven left, Tristan decided to go for a walk to clear his mind. The fresh, brisk air always made him think better. As he was shutting the front door, he looked up at the clear sky. On their way back down, his eyes saw a silhouette in a top-floor window across the street. Normally he wouldn't have done anything, except this was a young boy's shadow and there had been no movement from there before. His police instincts told him to investigate further. He left a note telling Steven he was on the trail of a possible lead. He then locked the door and went across the street.

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

Jamie looked across the square at his father's townhouse and saw a man standing at the doorway. He didn't look like he was breaking in. He must be a friend. That's it! He must be the policeman who was helping his father regain his memory! The man looked up at the sky then, Jamie thought, stared straight at him. The man went back inside as if he forgot something, then came back out and walked away.

Jamie decided it was time he left Bannister's room because he could come back at any moment. He locked the door behind him and headed to his own room. On his way he heard a knocking and someone calling from the front door. He ran to it. "Who's there?"

"Jamie? Jamie Stuart? Don't be afraid. I'm with Scotland Yard. I'm staying with your dad. My name's Tristan." Tris worked on the lock as he talked.

"How's Inspector Dolittle?"

"Went and saw him today. He's doing fine. Should be out in a few days." The lock clicked. "I'm coming in now." He opened the door and saw a young boy who looked about 13. "Lord Jamie Stuart, I presume?"

"Boy, am I glad to see someone other than that maniac! How's m'dad?"

"He's doing okay. He's really been worried about you. At this very moment he's meeting with Bannister to make a trade for you."

"Do you think Bannister will go through with it?"

"Not to worry you, but I don't think so. With you still in his grasp, he can use you to make your father do anything he wants him to."

"I don't believe he's going through with it. Just for me..." His voice drifted off.

Tristan noticed this and introduced a new topic. "How did he treat you? Okay?"

"Hunh? Oh, yeah, fine. A little rough at times, but on the whole, not bad. Though the next meal I have better not be fish 'n' chips!" Tris laughed. "Could you tell me what's been going on?"

Tristan told him everything that had been going on, both in the investigation proceedings and his father's amnesia. It took a long time because he had to think of a simpler way to put things and not use medical terms. After Tristan had finished explaining, Jamie said, "So he's recuperating well, then. Getting everything back together?"

"Not everything. There still are gaps. That's why we're worried just in case something goes wrong with Bannister."

"What could go wrong?"

"A number of things. Most of all, your father could be very truthful in saying he doesn't remember anything and Bannister will think he's bluffing. Need I go into what might happen?"

"I guess not. Could you tell me why Bannister wants my father? I feel I have a right to know."

"It's a long story but I'll do my best." Tris told Jamie the story as he had told Steven earlier. "So you see, Bannister feels that your father ruined his life so he's going to ruin his in return."

"You've done your homework, Mr. Forbes." Tristan wheeled around. "You shouldn't be so surprised. His Grace and I had an enlightening conversation and he's agreed to the trade. We'll have to work things out differently now that you've put a spanner in the works."

Tristan glared at him. "What time is it?"

"It's a little after 9:00. You must have been here for quite some time. I guess you won't mind staying a little longer." He pulled out a pistol and motioned for them to go into Jamie's room. "Sorry I don't have another bed, but I wasn't expecting another guest. Your quarters ma be cramped, but that wont' be for long." He shut and locked the door behind him.

"What does he mean by that?" asked Jamie.

"It could be taken one of two ways."

"Such as?"

"One: he'll let us go. Two: he's going to kill us."

III


Steven sat behind the wheel of his car in the midst of the 9:00 traffic in Picadilly. "I wouldn't be surprised if Tris was calling Thompson right now." He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. He then began to think about his encounter with Bannister. Now Tris feels that Bannister's out to ruin me. I think there's something more. Just by watching him closely, I could tell. He's out for blood! A honking horn brought him out of his reverie. The traffic lightened and moved on.

He parked the car and went inside to be greeted by a ringing phone. "Edinburgh."

"Oh, your Grace, you're back. The time's up and Forbes hasn't called yet. Is he there now?"

"I just came in and I don't see him." He glanced around the room and saw the note. "Hold on, there's a note." He put down the phone, picked up the note and read it. "Great." He picked up the phone again. "He says he stumbled on a lead and went off to investigate."

"At least he left a note. What did Bannister have to say?"

"He wants to trade me for Jamie same place and time tomorrow."

"Well, if you want to go through with it. At least let us put some people around on watch. Undercover, of course."

"I've a feeling you'll do it anyway."

"You're an international figure. If anything happens to you, I'll never hear the end of it. Besides, you're not such a bad bloke."

"I'll remember that. What do you want me to do if Tris doesn't come back?"

"Call us and nothing else. I know as I say this you won't do it, but please try."

"Fine, whatever you say," Steven replied innocently.

"Don't you dare! You can't!" Thompson realized he was yelling at the dial tone. "I guess he can."

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

It was 1:00 and Tris still hadn't come back. It had to be four hours--probably closer to five--since he had gone. Steven debated with himself whether or not he should do something other than call Thompson. "But what can they do? By the time they go through procedure, God knows what Bannister could have done to them."

He put on a jean jacket and went out. Sitting on the doorstep was another note from Bannister.

Your Grace, I'm sure you are curious as to where your psychologist friend is. You don't have to worry any more. He's keeping your son company. Don't try to do anything before the trade unless you want to see them injured in any way.

That proved that his premonition was right. It also changed his mind. He couldn't jeopardize the lives of his son and new-found friend no matter what the consequences. he walked back inside, picked up the phone, and dialed Thompson's number. "It's Edinburgh. Tristan still hasn't come back and you told me to call."

"I'm glad you did. I was afraid you were going to do something on your own."

"I was, but I got another note from Bannister. He's got Jamie and Tris. He also says that I'm not to do anything before the trade or he'll hurt them somehow."

"Will he go through with the trade? From what I know, he's pretty ruthless."

"I don't know. When I saw him tonight it seemed that the one he thing wanted most was to kill me. What scares me is why he's going through all this rigmarole now, instead of just killing me outright?"

"He probably wants to draw out the agony. Since, because of you, he had to wait so long to bring about your death, he's making you suffer. A morbid cat-and-mouse, if you don't mind the comparison."

"With me as the mouse." He fell silent.

"You still there?"

"I was just thinking. Mice have been known to be ingenious in outwitting cats. I'm kind of tired. I'll tell you about it tomorrow."

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

"I wondered if Forbes was right for the job," Dolittle complained.

"I think he is, sir. You picked him to help his Grace regain his memory. How were we to know he would try and become involved? Besides, his Grace has taken a liking to him."

"I just can't help feeling responsible. I also feel so helpless. All because of this damn leg!"

"You're not helpless. I'm acting on your orders. I know I couldn't handle this myself." Thompson smiled because he knew Dolittle didn't like direct praise. "What should we do about the trade?"

Dolittle came out of his depression. "Go through with it, of course. Bannister will probably suspect something if we don't. Keep a watch as planned and keep me posted. If Bannister does do something, you can follow him. What do you have to say?"

"Before I start that, I should tell you I got a call this morning offering help."

"Who was it?"

"A friend of yours, Richard Johnson."

"What did you say to him?"

"I said if he wanted to help, it would be greatly appreciated. He said he'd try and get here by this afternoon."

"Good. Maybe he can shed some light on it from a different perspective."

"Okay. I think we should handle the trade like this..." Thompson told Dolittle his plan for the surveillance.

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

That afternoon, Steven went to Scotland Yard to talk with Sgt. Thompson. When he walked inside, the place went into an uproar. People kept asking him if he was okay or if he needed anything. Steven guessed that he must have been something of a regular visitor. "Sgt. Thompson's not it at the moment, your Grace. He's gone to the airport. He told me you might be coming so you can wait in Mr. Dolittle's office. Would you care for some tea?"

"Yes, please. Just milk, thank you." Steven walked into Dolittle's office as the constable went to fix his tea. After he sat down, he looked around the room. He was feeling the strangest sensations. He seemed to recognize it, yet it was totally alien to him. At least if there was some tinge of familiarity, he knew his memory was coming back to him. There was a polite knock on the door and the constable brought in his tea then left again. About ten minutes later two men walked into the office. One Steven recognized as Sgt. Thompson, but the other was a stranger. He was an inch or two taller than himself with sandy brown hair and brown eyes. He had a kind face, though, underneath it seemed that he could be tough if necessary.

Sgt. Thompson spoke up. "I'm glad to see you, your Grace. This is Mr. Richard Johnson, a friend of the inspector's. He's here to help us."

Steven took the proffered hand. "Have I met you before?"

Johnson, puzzled as to how tot answer, looked at Thompson, who nodded. "Yes. We worked together during World War II and Korea."

"You do seem vaguely familiar, but, then again, a lot of things do right now. I want you to know I'm definitely going through with the trade. I feel responsible. I mean, this is the first time anything's happened to Jamie since I adopted him. I don't think he's used to such things. If Bannister's not going to let them go, at least I'll be there instead of here, alone and miserable."

"We weren't going to stop you. As a matter of fact, we were going to help you. We're going to set up surveillance around the area and follow him in case he doesn't do an even trade."

"May I make a suggestion?"

"Certainly, Mr. Johnson," said Thompson.

"Let's just say Bannister goes through with the trade. Your police can't openly show themselves for fear of scaring him off. What I propose is that I drive you to the point just in case your son is released so he'll have a ride."

Steven looked at the man admiringly. "I didn't think of that. "You're not with the police, are you?"

"No, not really. I used to be."

"I like the idea. How about if you come to my place, say, about 7:00. That'll give me time to get things together. By then I might remember you." He said good-bye and left.

Richard Johnson watched the retreating figure and shook his head. "I can't believe this has happened. Has anyone reached his sister yet?"

"No, but we keep trying. I'm surprised she hasn't heard of it."

"Maybe she's somewhere they can't hear the news." He sat down and looked at the file. "Can you fill me in on this plan of yours?"

"Sure." Thompson sat down in Dolittle's chair. "You know what I just realized? His Grace never told us his plan!"

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

That night at 7:30, Bannister marched Jamie and Tristan out of the flat, through the building's back door to where his car was parked. He wanted to be there before Taylor, just in case he smelled a rat. When they reached the site, Bannister turned around and told them what to do. "I'm sure, as a policeman, Mr. Forbes, you already know what to do, but I'll say it for the boy. Your father will be on the opposite side, an equal distance from the center. You will walk towards that side and he will walk towards this. Don't try anything stupid, my trigger finger is itchy."

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

At 7:05, Thompson brought Johnson to Steven's St. James townhouse. Steven opened the door for them and walked back to the kitchen where he had photographs and articles piled on the table. Steven motioned at them and said, "Tris was going to help me with these." He looked at Rick. "I remember you now. I found your photo with an article. I'm sorry I didn't before. It seems we go back quite a-ways."

"Yep. Your Eagle days. You gave me a lot of trouble then, but you also gave me a lot of breaks. That's why I was so glad when I met you in France."

"When this thing is over and if..." His voice trailed off. "Could you help me by telling me stories of our time together?"

"Sure thing. I'll try to remember some good ones."

"I think it's time we got going," said Thompson. "You all set?"

"Yep." Steven stood and walked to the door. "Let's go." He picked up his jacket and walked out.

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

Steven and Rick reached the rendezvous at just about 8:00. Thompson had gone to the opposite side to follow Banister when he left. Steven didn't know exactly where, but knew there were undercover police watching. He smiled and shook hands with Rick before stepping out of the car.

He saw Bannister across the way with two other figures--Jamie and Tris. "Stay where you are, Taylor. No funny moves. Wait till I tell you to start. We don't want any unnecessary injuries, do we?"

"Fine. I have a driver in the car to take them back home. Take my word for it that he's unarmed and won't follow."

"I believe you. I don't have to go over the rules for you, do I? Good. Now, start walking."

Tristan and Jamie proceeded to the center from their side and Steven did the same. When they reached the halfway point, Steven knelt and gave Jamie a hug. He held back his tears and told Jamie to be brave if anything happened to him. He stood and smiled wanly and Tristan. "Thanks. I think you've helped." He shook his hand and continued walking.

About three-quarters to the other side, Tristan stopped. Jamie didn't notice and kept going. Tris looked towards the waiting car, at Steven, then back again. He saw jamie reach the car before he turned and ran back to Steven.

Steven was startled when he heard Tris' footsteps. "What are you doing?"

"It's got to be the policeman in me. I couldn't very well let you go through this alone, could I?"

"I'm glad you thought that. Just don't try anything heroic. Leave the idiotic moves to me."

They finished walked towards Bannister. "That was a foolish move on your part, Mr. Forbes. I was granting you your life, but now it is forfeit since you have chosen to return. I won't be so lenient again." He turned to Steven. "At least I have you." He put them in the car and drove away.

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

Rick got out of the car when he saw Tristan run back. He stared as Steven turned to greet him. By then Jamie had realized what had happened and had turned around. A tear rolled down his face as he saw them get into the car. Rick walked up beside him. "I'm here to drive you home. I'm a friend of your dad's. My name's Rick."

"You're American, aren't you?" queried Jamie. Rick smiled in response. "Will my dad be okay?"

"I think so. He's got Constable Forbes with him, right? Besides, Sgt. Thompson's following them."

On the way home, Rick got Jamie to talk about what happened to him and where he had been kept. Jamie told him everything he could remember. "We were right across the street, but he won't be there now. He had a second flat set up in case they found him in the first, so he's likely to have a third."

"Good thinking, Jamie. I'll get you home first, then we'll call the police and tell them about it. You never know what we might find."

When they reached St. James, Rick opened the door with the key Steven had given him. Jamie went and sat down in a large easy chair. Rick went into the kitchen to scrape together a meal. He turned on the radio to hear if any news of the trade had leaked out. Not yet. He returned to the living room with water for Jamie and saw the boy was asleep. Rick smiled, picked him up, and took him upstairs to bed. He laid the boy down, took off his shoes, and covered him with a blanket. "It's just as well," he said to himself as he tucked the blanket around him. "He needs his sleep."

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

Thompson saw the car containing Bannister and Steven drive by. He looked carefully and could have sworn he saw a third person. "Great," he muttered. "Forbes is there. I thought he was supposed to be traded along with Jamie. Bannister better not have double-crossed us."

He kept driving, following, leaving at least one car between him and his quarry. He remembered what Steven had told him over the phone. Bannister wasn't just trying to ruin him, he was planning on killing him. The question was, how long until that happened?

Thompson then looked where they were. Why was Bannister heading for Picadilly? Did he have a place there? No, he was just cutting through. They then reached the Circus. Bannister went up Shaftsbury Avenue and Thompson followed not wanting to lose them. He soon realized that Bannister knew he was being followed. He began switching lanes, trying to get rid of him. Thompson tried to keep up, but a light turned red and he couldn't pass through, having no siren. He just hoped Bannister wasn't too anxious to bring his plan to a conclusion.

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

Steven watched as Thompson's car slowly became smaller. It was like watching his last hope shrivel up and disappear. He turned around, ready to accept his fate. Now that Bannister had him, he wasn't about to let go. Tristan was going to go the same way, that didn't need much figuring. Tris saw the change in him and tried to get him to talk about it, but Steven waved him away.

Bannister stopped the car and motioned for them to get out. It was dark and Tris and Steven could not tell where they were. All they saw was a dark alleyway with dustbins. That could put them anywhere. He then led them up a fire escape to a door into a kitchen. He didn't switch on the lights, but motioned for them to precede him out of the room. They walked down a small hallway until he gestured them into a second room. Without a word, but with an evil smile that spoke for him, Bannister tied the two of them up and sat them on the floor. He then pulled up a chair , placed it in front of them, and sat. He looked down on Steven. "I'm so glad we could have this little get together, your Grace. I've a feeling you'll provide more entertainment for me than your son did. I must admit, that little reunion was very touching. It had me on the verge of tears," he said sarcastically.

"I'm glad it met your standards, though I don't know if I should take it as a compliment or not, knowing your taste," Steven replied mockingly.

"Now, I should tell you of my plans, but I think I'll hold my tongue a little longer." He left the room without shutting the door behind him. A thin shaft of light pierced the dark as Bannister entered the kitchen. They heard him pour a drink and get some food out of the refrigerator. Twenty minutes later--it might have been longer, Steven couldn't see his watch--the aroma of a grilled steak and sautéed onions floated their way. That wasn't all that bad. The real torture was when Bannister brought it into the room and ate it in front of them.

"Good thing I'm on a diet," quipped Tristan.

"Can't you just picture him after eating that? I wouldn't able to recognize him. So many new pounds," Steven said, turning to Tris trying to keep his eyes from the steak.

Bannister watched the exchange as if he were at a dinner theatre. He smiled to himself when he saw Steven turn away. Yes, he had planned this well: steak and onions was known to be one of Steven's favorite meals. It was his American upbringing. This was only the beginning. It might not work as well with the policeman around. He'd figure someway to work around it. Maybe give him the same treatment. It all depended on how things progressed.

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

Rick was back in the kitchen getting something to nibble when the doorbell rang. He walked over and looked through the peephole. It was Thompson. Rick opened it and let him in. "What happened?"

"I lost them," he said bluntly.

"How?"

"He came down Picadilly, went 'round the Circus, then turned off. He caught on and I lost him in traffic. They could be anywhere by now."

Rick offered him something to drink. "I guess the only thing we can do is check out the apartment Jamie stayed in."

"Really? Where was it?"

"Right across the street. That's how Bannister could keep tabs on Steven's movements."

"Regular Sherlock Holmes move; hide things in plain sight."

"More like Poe."

"Hunh?"

"Edgar Allen Poe came up with the idea first. Didn't you ever read The Purloined Letter?"

"No." He dropped the subject. "When do you want to check out the flat?"

"Tomorrow. Jamie's sleeping upstairs and I don't want to leave him."

"Fine. I'll talk with Dolittle in the morning then come here."

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

Steven tried his best to stretch under the circumstances. He opened one eye and looked at Tris. "Hullo."

"So, what's on the agenda today?"

"I'll have to cancel our day at the club. Why don't we just sit home and relax?"

"Excellent idea, old boy. Though I did look forward to a jolly good game of polo, what?"

"Rather. Sorry, old bean, priorities first."

"How true, how true."

The scent of bacon and kippers drifted their way. "Not again. How long's he gonna keep this up?" moaned Tristan.

"Till he kills us. Then your troubles will be over."

"Don't joke at a time like this. I'll break before you do. I haven't eaten since lunch yesterday."

"You didn't have to stay. You could have gone with Jamie and helped that way."

"Well, there's hardly an excitement in that."

"Let's just drop it." Steven was becoming irritable and didn't want to take it out on Tris.

Bannister walked into the room and set the tray down in front of them as he pulled up his chair. "Good morning, gentlemen. What a wonderful morning this is."

"My, you're awfully chipper this morning," said Steven. He was suspicious of Bannister because he was so happy. Maybe this was the day. Tris seemed to agree.

"Why shouldn't I be, Taylor? This is going to be a great day in my life. Revenge will be complete."

"What a cheerful thought," muttered Tris. "I wish I could be that joyful this morning."

"If I may say so, constable, it's your own fault. Your life became forfeit when you decided to stay."

Steven was weakening for the bacon. he could feel his mouth begin to water. This was worse than when he was in Germany--at least they gave him something resembling food. "That looks like a pretty sick kipper," he said, trying to keep himself from giving in.

"I assure you, it's quite delicious. Would you like some?"

To give in now would be just what Bannister wanted. If he were going out, he'd go fighting. "No, thanks. I'm trying to cut down." Tris looked at him as if he were crazy.

"What about you, Mr. Forbes? Would you care for a bite?"

He was about to say 'yes' when he caught the look in Steven's eyes. "Uh...no. Forgot my toothbrush. Don't want to go around with kipper-breath all day."

Bannister was getting upset. This usually worked. He'd have to be a bit more harsh. "Why should you care, Mr. Forbes? No one else will see you today. Besides, after lunch it won't matter anymore."

"You never know. For every party there are gate-crashers." Tris smiled back at him. Bannister growled and stormed out of the room. "Not a very good host, is he?"

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

Later that morning Rick and Jamie were cleaning up after a late breakfast when Thompson arrived. "How are you today, Jamie?"

"Fine, sir, considering."

He turned to Rick. "Are you ready to go?"

"Go where?" asked Jamie.

Rick gave Thompson an exasperated look then went to Jamie. "We're going to check out the apartment where Bannister took you." Jamie opened his mouth but before he could say anything, Rick cut him off. "You're staying here!"

"Why?"

"Because I said so."

"No fair." Jamie scowled. "What am I supposed to do?"

"Study. You still have to go to school."

"I can't. My books were in the first flat."

"They were," said Thompson. Rick stared at him. "They're in my car. We picked them up when we searched the place. I'll get them." He left.

"It's for your dad," Rick told Jamie. "I won't be able to keep an eye on you as well. I'll tell you everything, okay?" Jamie reluctantly gave in and took the books from Thompson who had just returned. "Now remember, study!"

Jamie stormed up to his room. They were treating him like he was still 9 instead of 13! He flopped down on the bed and looked at the floor for nigh on five minutes. He got bored with that and sat at his desk. He then stared at his books, not being able to concentrate. He turned on his record player and put on the latest Buddy Holly record his cousin had sent from America. So much for work!

He got up and started singing. "There's no use in me a-cryin' I've done everything and now I'm sick of tryin'. I've thrown away my nights and wasted all my days over yooouuu-ah-oo."

The record was over and Jamie needed to hear it again so he went over and played it louder. He went downstairs to get something to drink and could hear the record as if it were right beside him. He went back upstairs and heard a banging on the wall. "Okay, okay, I'll turn it down. Hold on." He turned down the volume but the banging continued. He was about to yell when he realized that the banging was Morse code! He listened carefully then went to check it out. Maybe he'd prove to be as much of a hero as his dad!

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

Steven and Tris sat there waiting, wondering if the kid playing the loud music had understood. A door creaked. Had Bannister come back to ruin everything? No, the footsteps had paused. Who was it?

A face peered into the room. "Dad? You there?"

Steven let out a sigh of relief. "Thank God." He then realized it was Jamie. "What are you doing here? How did you find us?"

"You banged on the wall and I came over. Let me untie you."

"No."

Tris looked at him. "Now I know you're crazy. We've a chance to get away and you're turning it down."

"If we go, Bannister will try again. We need Rick and Thompson to catch him red-handed."

"Right after he kills us."

"Don't be so pessimistic. I bet you're loving every minute."

"It does have its high moments. Jamie, could you get us some water? My mouth is a regular desert."

"Sure." He ran off and came back with a glass of ice-cold water.

Tris took a gulp. "Pure nectar." He took a second gulp before Jamie's passed the glass to his father.

"I want you to go tell Rick and Thompson where we are. Don't worry. Now, get going and take the water with you."

"Okay. I won't let you down." He smiled and left.

"Smart kid," noted Tris. "He's got something you don't, though."

"And what's that?"

"Good looks." Tris laughed and Steven couldn't help but join him.

"If I weren't tied up, I'd belt you. Why did you say that?"

"You asked me not to be such a pessimist."

The front door opened. "I wonder what our esteemed host has brought for us to drool at?" Steven muttered.

"Probably pheasant or duck a l'orange."

"I don't think I could have anything so heavy for lunch. Maybe I'll just pass it up and have a beer."

"So much for elegance."

Bannister entered the room with a reuben sandwich and a mug of ale. Steven thought that he must have talked louder than he had intended. "So, gentlemen, how are we this afternoon?"

"I don't know about Tris, but I'm so full after that breakfast."

"You should eat something. You never know when your last meal might be."

"What a wonderful turn of phrase."

"Laugh while you can. You have more fingers than remaining minutes." He turned his back on them and walked out.

IV


Rick and Thompson could not find anything in the flat that would lead them to Bannister's new hiding place. They found food and other normal things one would find in a residence. All the windows except for one were nailed shut and painted black so the captive would not know where he was.

There were a few shouts of protest from outside then Jamie came running in. "I've seen them! I've talked to m'dad!"

"Why aren't you studying?"

"Didn't you hear me? I've seen my dad!"

"You've had a lot on your mind, it's no wonder you thought you saw him."

"I didn't think I saw him, I know I did."

"Tell me about it," Rick said.

"I was up in my room trying to study, but I couldn't, so I played some records real loud. I heard a banging on the wall so I turned down the music. The banging continued. I then figured out it was Morse code. I went out on the fires escape and climbed onto the one next door and went into the flat. That's where I saw Dad and Constable Forbes and they were tied up. Dad wouldn't let me untie them because Bannister would get away. He sent me to you and now you don't believe me."

"It's not that we don't believe you," said Thompson. "It's just hard to imagine Bannister placing them right next to his Grace's own house."

Jamie looked at him in disbelief. "Didn't you ever read The Purloined Letter?" Rick laughed and Thompson just rolled his eyes heavenward.

"Okay, Jamie. We'll go over with you. You and I can watch from the fire escape while Thompson keeps an eye on the front door. We should arrange a time to break-in. What time is it now?"

"I think it's about 12:15. I can get more men and a warrant there by 1:00."

"Fine. We'll set it for then. C'mon, Jamie, let's head back to your house and let Thompson get himself organized." They walked out of the flat.

Thompson watched the two walk off. "I just hope Jamie's right. I'll feel like a fool if I burst in on an old lady's tea."

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

Steven was becoming very uncomfortable mentally. They could hear Bannister whistling and humming to himself. That's a very unnerving thing: a happy murderer. That's a sign of a very unstable mind. Most psychotics are very logical thinkers in their own way. They plan every move and, if something gets in their way, they try to go around it or destroy it. If neither works, that's when they break. I am not looking forward to that.

Tristan looked pensive. "How do you think he's going to do it?"

"I don't know." Now that death was imminent, he didn't want to talk about it. He just hoped Sarah would take good care of Jamie. Why did she have to go in the first place?

"He can't very well shoot us. It would make too much noise, wouldn't it?" He looked at Steven.

"He probably has a silencer. I doubt he'd shoot us. He'll probably want something 'to prolong the agony'."

"Yeah, but how? Would he gas us, strangle us, or burn us?"

"I don't know, but if you keep that up, you'll give him ideas." C'mon, Jamie, you can do it.

Bannister came in. "The time has come, gentlemen! I hope you'll forgive me for not waiting until the final moments, but circumstances won't allow it." He pulled something out of his pocket. It was small, round, and looked very much like a hand grenade.

"This is sheer madness!" Steven cried out.

"No, it's not. This way I get rid of you, your son, Forbes here, and that meddling C.I.A. agent next door. It's all quite sane. Farewell, gentlemen!" He threw the object into the center of the room. Too late, Steven realized it was an incendiary bomb. Through the flames, Steven could see Bannister's smiling face before he left.

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

Rick and Jamie heard Steven cry out from their perch on the fire escape. They climbed in through the kitchen window and crept into the living room. They were just in time to see Bannister go out the front door. They then heard shouts and shots and figured Thompson had it under control.

They rushed to the room from where the fire was spreading. They heard coughing. "Steven! Forbes! Are you guys okay?" yelled Rick.

"The heat's a little high, but I'm all right. Tristan's a bit weak, but breathing."

"We'll have you out as soon as we can." He turned to Jamie. "Go get a fire extinguisher." The boy ran off.

Rick searched for a small rug to help beat down the flames as it was quickly spreading through the flat. He pounded the rug on the floor to clear a path to the prisoners. He made his way to them and untied them. Rick and Steven helped Tristan to stand, and, as they turned to go out, saw the pathway had closed.

Jamie returned with extinguishers and constables to help. They cleared a path once again and Rick and Steven supported Tris out of the room. By this time, more constables had arrived and the fire was almost out.

Tris and Steven were now breathing easier and could make it down to Steven's house. Steven made his way to the kitchen and pulled two beers from the refrigerator, handing one to Tris before he took a long, lingering sip from his own. "I don't think beer has ever tasted this good before." He smiled as he sank into a chair. "What's to eat?"

"You guys must be starving. How does spaghetti sound? It fills you up and doesn't take long to cook."

"Wonderful," said Tristan. "Are there any biscuits in the meantime?"

"I think so." Jamie went to look. He returned with a box of shortbread and set in on the table in front of Tris.

There was a knock on the door and Rick answered it. Thompson was standing there with soot on his face. "He's disappeared."

"What? Enough with the jokes, Thompson. What happened?"

"He knocked out two of my men and got away."

"Did you see him?" Steven asked.

"No. I was at the front door and he didn't go by me."

"He could have gone out with the other residents when they cleared the building 'cos of the fire," put in Jamie.

"I wouldn't be surprised."

A young constable came running into the room. They've located him, sir. They're chasing him now."

"Steven, where are your keys?"

"You had 'em last."

"Oh, yeah, right."

"Take the car and drive 'round the back and wait for him. That's where he left his car."

"Okay. Coming, Thompson?"

"Be right there. I just thought I'd tell you both that the inspector was beside himself when I told him what had happened. So was I? I'm just glad that you're both okay."

"Thanks, Thompson. You'd better go get Bannister. I don't think I'll be able to go through all that again."

"Right." Thompson smiled. "We'll get him, don't you worry."

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

Rick drove to the alley behind Steven's house and waited for Bannister. He just hoped it wouldn't get too violent. Even though he was with the C.I.A. he still wasn't all that thrilled with killing. He heard a car engine start. It must be Bannister. The car pulled out ahead of him and Rick followed. Bannister must have realized he was being followed for he started weaving in and out of traffic. Rick, barely keeping him in sight, mentally cursed Steven for not putting a two-way radio in the car. How was he supposed to get in touch with the Yard, yell out the window?

Bannister made a few more turns and Rick realized they were heading out of the City. They drove over Tower Bridge and started running parallel to the Thames. The road was virtually empty, so Bannister poured on the gas. Rick easily kept up and started to close the gap between them. The road widened and Bannister suddenly hit the brakes, dust flying up behind him. Rick stepped on his brakes, listening to the tires squeal with a grimace. Steven would love this! Bannister turned his car around and was heading straight for him. Rick jumped on the accelerator and moved out of the way but not before Bannister hit the rear of Steven's Alvis. Oh, am I gonna hear from him when I get back! He whipped the car around and followed Bannister. Where was that maniac going?

It soon became apparent that he was going back into the City. Rick drove faster than he would normally dare in London. I wish I was in New York where people don't drive so funny.

Once again, they turned off Tower Bridge and drove along the Thames. The road was empty and their speed increased. Suddenly, around the corner ahead of them, a lorry lumbered along. Bannister was going too fast and couldn't stop, so he tried to swerve and miss it. The road was too narrow and he was flung into the river. Rick saw the lorry and slowed down, but not enough. He turned the wheel away from the river and hit a lamppost. Wonderful!

The police arrived on the scene to help direct traffic. A truck was also called to tow away the Hirondel. Thompson came up beside Rick, who was standing on the edge of the Embankment. "There's no way he could have survived a head-on collision."

"I know. I just feel so..." He searched for the right word. "Just so empty. I mean, what a way to go."

"We've gotten in touch with Thames Division and they're sending a boat with a winch to pull it out."

They walked back to Steven's car. "How long do you think it'll take to fix this?" he asked the garage attendant who was looking it over.

"Mebbe a week or so. 'Pends on if we got the parts. They're kinda hard t' get. Don't see 'em 'round much."

"No sooner?"

"Nope. Well, can't be too sure 'baht that. If ye c'n leave me a number where I c'n reach ye..."

"It's not my car, but if you give me your number, I can call you when I have his."

The man put a hand in his overall pocket and handed Rick a grimy card. "Ask f'r Paul."

"Thanks." He watched as Paul towed away Steven's Hirondel. He turned to Thompson. "Can I have a lift?"

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

After Rick filled out a report on the chase, Thompson dropped him off at Steven's. Jamie, Steven, and Tris were having something to eat. Tris noticed him first. "Care for some spaghetti?"

Steven noticed his face. "Did you lose him?"

"In a sense."

"What do you mean?"

"He's dead. I was chasing him and he collided with a lorry and went over the Embankment."

Steven grimaced. "What a way to go."

Tristan got up and went into the kitchen to get something for Rick to eat. He heard murmuring voices, then, all of a sudden, "You did what?" Steven exclaimed.

Tris came out as Rick repeated himself. Tris put the food down. "You hurt his pride and joy. He's had it since 1943."

"I'll help pay for it. Would you rather I gave it a bath?"

"No. I'm sorry. It's just a bit of a shock. As Tris said, I've had it for fifteen years."

"Let me call the garage and give them your number so you'll know when it's ready."

"Sure, go on." He looked at Jamie. "Did you enjoy your week off?"

"I don't think I'll be able to go through it again, but it was exciting."

"Good. So you won't mind going back to the same old grind of schoolwork."

"Oh..."

"Don't try it. You're going back."

"Okay." The doorbell rang and Jamie went to answer it. "Hey, Dad, it's a telegram!" He handed it to Steven.

He read it. "Sarah's coming back tomorrow. Good thing we've cleared this whole thing up." He smiled.

"Your memory's come back," said Tris.

"Was it even missing?"

"Don't you remember the crash?"

Steven looked puzzled. "Crash? I remember driving up to London, finding a note from Bannister, and everything after that. What happened in-between?" Tris told him everything. "I remember bits and pieces, that's about it."

"So, what's on the agenda tonight?" Tris asked as he relaxed on a sofa.

No one had any suggestions until Jamie piped up with an idea. "Aunt Stephanie gave me a new game for my birthday. Want to give it a try?"

"What's the name of it?" Rick asked as Jamie ran to get it.

"Monopoly!"

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

When Jamie woke, he changed and went downstairs to get some orange juice. In the kitchen, he saw his father reading the Sunday Times while drinking a cup of coffee. "Morning, Dad. How are you feeling?"

"Fine. Just trying to catch up on things. You were a real big help yesterday. I don't mean to lecture at a time like this, but Thompson told me last night that you went with Bannister not knowing who he was. Was I wasting my breath when I told you about strangers? I don't like treating you as if you're a special case, but, this time you are. You have to be more careful than other kids your age. You've learned from this, right?" Jamie nodded. "Promise me you'll be more careful in the future." Jamie nodded again and Steven gave him a hug.

Tristan sat up on one of the sofas in the living room and looked over at Rick on the other. "Hey," he whispered, "do you smell coffee?"

Rick opened one eye. "Yeah. Smells good, too." He sat up. "Man, could I go for some now." Both he and Tristan got up and walked into the kitchen in their wrinkled clothes from the day before.

Steven's eyes didn't leave the paper. "I was wondering when you guys would get up."

"I'm surprised you're even up so early after yesterday," said Tris as he poured himself a cup of coffee.

"I surprised myself. I just reached the point where I couldn't sleep anymore so I got up."

"You were like that in France. You had the least amount of sleep, yet you were the most lively in the morning," said Rick. Tris handed him a mug of coffee. "Thanks. I'd like to see John today before I leave."

"You're not gonna see him in that get-up. You can borrow some of my stuff while we wash yours."

"Thanks." He took his coffee with him as he went to take a shower.

After Rick went upstairs, Tristan said, "We weren't that bad together, were we?"

"No, we weren't. What are you going to do now?"

"Quit."

"Then what?"

"I was thinking I could work with you. You never know when you'll need help in your line."

"Guess you're right." Steven held out his hand. "Welcome to the family, Tris."

The doorbell rang and Steven went to answer it. "C'mon in, guys. Want some coffee?"

At first, Jamie and Tristan couldn't see who it was. Then they walked into their line of vision. It was Sgt. Thompson following Inspector Dolittle who was on crutches. "Glad to see you're up and about, sir," said Tris, getting to his feet.

"It's good to be up." He limped over to a chair and sat down. "Thompson's told me everything. I'm sorry I couldn't have taken a hand in this personally."

"But you did. You discovered it was Bannister."

"It was through my own stupidity that he got away and almost killed you." Nobody said anything. "Fine, make me feel worse than I already do."

"No one can argue with the truth." Rick casually walked down the stairs. "How're you doing, John?" He shook his hand.

"You had to get involved. Nothing could keep you away."

"You're a regular psychic."

Steven walked back from the kitchen and gave Dolittle and Thompson each a mug of coffee. "Have you had any breakfast?"

"No. That would be nice."

When they were all done, Tris made a point to talk to Dolittle alone. "I've had another job offer, so I'm quitting."

"Can you tell me about it?"

"I'm going to be a companion to an old man who needs someone to help care for him."

A smile spread over Dolittle's face. "Did Steven ask you?"

"It was the other way 'round." Tristan knew he had been tricked. "You knew?"

"Guessed. It'll be great for you. You'll learn. Just keep him on the right side of the law. You never know with him."

Steven walked in. "Thanks for the compliment."

"Your Grace, since when did you move to Fleet Street?" Thompson asked, looking out the window.

"What do you mean?"

"It seems that every reporter in London is outside."

"Great. How do I handle this?"

"You either talk to them or ignore them. It's up to you," said John.

"I guess they deserve the right to know." He went out the door and flashbulbs went off in his face.

He was answering questions for close to half an hour when a car pulled up in front of the house. The occupants were recognized and more flashbulbs went off. Steven's sister Sarah, her husband Fitz, and son Henry stepped out. Sarah smiled and gave her brother a kiss. "You didn't have to call the press for a welcoming committee," she said to him.

"They're not here for you." He waved to the press. "That's enough, fellas." The crowd dispersed.

"What were they here for?" she asked. Steven ignored her and picked up Henry. Sarah repeated her question. He joked with Fitz who laughed with him. "Well, are you going to answer me or not?"

"Come inside and I will."

Everyone stood when she walked inside and she motioned for them to sit. Fitz helped himself to coffee and sat by Rick. "All right, Steven. What did you do now?"

"It's...um...kind of a long story."

She stared at him and folded her arms. "I'm waiting."

"Well, it's like this..."

Profile

SPN Dean Writing
blazoningpen
blazoningpen

Latest Month

May 2018
S M T W T F S
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Witold Riedel