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The Eagle Chronicles 5: Inspector Hamilton

Title: 5. Inspector Hamilton
Series: The Eagle Chronicles
Word Count 2420
Summary In London, Steven almost gets caught during a simple job
Author's Note Something planted the idea on my head of an air raid being the perfect time for a little robbery. Sorry for the dull title. I never came up with anything snazzy but if you do, pass it on.




5. Inspector Hamilton

August 1940

Steven walked into the hotel lobby and looked around. It was small and cozy with a genteel elegance which meant that the clientele were well-enough off to be picky about where they stayed. He picked up his case and made his way to the reception desk. "I'd like a room for three nights, please."

"Certainly, sir. If you could fill out this registration card, I'll get your key." Steven filled out the form using his favorite alias of Sebastian Talbot. "Are you here on business or pleasure, Mr. Talbot?"

"A little of both. I'm playing courier at the moment." He placed his briefcase on the counter. "While I'm here, do you think you could put something in the safe for me?"

"Certainly, sir. Just one moment."

Steven watched over her shoulder as she opened the safe. "Does all the staff know the combination?"

"No, sir. No, just the manager and myself. If you would like to hand me the package, you can witness me as I put it in."

Steven smiled as she placed the "documents" in the safe. Phase One was accomplished. She spun the lock and led him to his room on the second floor. On the way, she told him where to go in case of an air raid. "There haven't been any for some time now, so we're due."

He thanked her and locked the door once she left. The old shredded newspaper trick had gotten him a glimpse of the safe. As far as he could tell, there were a few decent-looking jewels in there. Should be a good haul. Now there wasn't much to do but wait.

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

The following night, he decided to put Phase Two into action. He asked the porter, a man a few years older than himself, for some good night spots. The porter gave him a few names and Steven had him hail a cab.

He arrived at one of the clubs and sat down at the bar. "Whisky and water." He took a pack of cigarettes and made a show of looking for matches. "Excuse me," he asked the bartender, "do you have any matches? I seem to have used all mine." The bartender handed him a book with the club's name on it. "Thanks."

Steven took his whisky and cigarette and found a table from which to watch the floor show. The band was mediocre, playing the standards and Hit Parade. The chorus girls were clones from every other nightclub in the area and their voices left a lot to be desired. However, it made people forget about the war if only for a couple of hours. He checked his watch. According to the maids, there was only one couple he had to wait for; they were going to a show in the West End. Once they were back and asleep, he'd make his move. Not much longer. He ordered another drink and had another cigarette. Maybe if he walked back...

He finished his drink just as the second show was starting. He wandered down Oxford Street and was about two blocks away from the hotel when the air raid sounded. Instinctively, he ducked into a nearby doorway. After a few seconds, he realized that now would be the ideal time to act--everyone would be in the shelter.

He hurried to the hotel and cautiously went inside, listening for any movement. Nothing. He pulled his gloves out of his pocket and slipped them on as he went behind the registration desk. He knelt and began to work the combination. The safe was older than the ones he had worked on before so it took a little longer. He took out the jewels and cash, leaving the papers and his calling card. He then went up to his room and placed them in a padded box, which he addressed to his friend Jack who would hold it for him. It would already be on its way by the time the police caught on--if they caught on.

He then went outside, found a mailbox and posted the package. By the time he returned, the siren sounded the all-clear. The night porter asked him where he had stayed during the raid. "Oh, I went to the Tube and waited. Thanks for asking," he answered, going to his room. When he got inside, he began to shake with laughter

*******************************************************************************
He was having a light breakfast in the restaurant when the theft was discovered. Earlier than he expected, but not too early. He went to the registration desk to see the cause of the commotion. An older woman was bemoaning the loss of her jewels and her husband was attempting to comfort her. "You have my sincerest apologies," the manager was saying. "Such a thing has never happened before."

"Your apologies won't bring my wife's jewels back," said the husband. "What steps have you taken to find them?"

"One of the staff is calling Scotland Yard right now. They should be here quite soon. If you would like to take a seat in the lounge, I will tell you when they arrive."

The husband led his wife away and Steven walked over and asked what happened. "The safe was burglarized last night. That couple had a change in plans and needed to take their things out. If not, I have no idea when we would have discovered it."

"I had some important documents in there. Are they gone as well?"

"No, sir, just the cash and jewels. I can't believe this has happened."

A porter came to the desk. "Scotland Yard will be sending someone over right away, sir."

"Thank you."

Steven went up to his room and waited for the inevitable interview.

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

Later that afternoon, Steven was asked to come downstairs for an interview with the police. He was ushered into the manager's office where a tall man who looked to be in his early forties was sitting behind the desk. A second, younger man sat in the corner with a notepad. "Mr. Talbot, I am Inspector Hamilton from Scotland Yard here to investigate this theft."

"I'm surprised that they brought you in, instead of a uniform, for just a theft."

"It is one of a chain done by the same man. We have been tracking him for some time."

"How do you know it's the same guy?"

"He always leaves feathers as a calling card. He calls himself the Eagle."

"That's pretty stupid, isn't it? I mean, once they nail him for one crime, they can get him for the others."

Hamilton realized that Steven was the one asking the questions. He took control of the interview. "You checked in two days ago, Mr. Talbot. Correct?" Steven nodded. "Is this trip for business or pleasure?"

"A little of both. I'm here mainly on business, but since I'm running ahead of schedule, I decided to throw in a bit of pleasure as well."

"What is your business, Mr. Talbot?"

"I'm a courier. Right now, I'm en route to New York from Paris. I have some documents that have to be there next week."

"What type of documents?"

"I've no idea. I just know where they have to be and when they have to be there."

"When will you be leaving?"

"I was planning on tomorrow. Any later would throw me off schedule."

"Where were you last night at the time of the theft?"

Steven was not about to fall into this little trap. "What time was that?"

"Between 9:00 and 12:00."

"I was out at a club. I can't think of the name. Wait, I have a match box." He pulled it out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Hamilton, who nodded. "I left right about the time the second show was starting and walked back here. When the air raid sounded, I went to the Tube at Bond Street until it was over and then continued on here. The night porter saw me come in. I said good night and went up to bed."

The sergeant in the corner finished scratching away on his pad and Hamilton copied down the name of the club from the matchbox before handing it back. "That will be all for now, Mr. Talbot. Thank you for being so cooperative."

"I hope you find him, Inspector," Steven said, rising from his chair.

"So do I, Mr. Talbot. So do I."

Steven left the hotel and found an empty phone kiosk. He then called Waterloo Station and asked for trains heading for Southampton. He then called Euston Station and asked about trains to Liverpool. One way or the other, he was leaving the country. He knew it wouldn't be long until Hamilton inspected the briefcase and found the newspaper. He needed a way to get out of the hotel without rousing suspicion. He called Tim and asked him to call the hotel in an hour saying that the date was moved up and he had to leave a day early.

He went back to the hotel and waited for the phone call. Once it came, he finished packing. As he was checking out, the woman at reception told him that Hamilton wanted him. "Oh, really?"

"I think he's in the lounge."

"Thanks." Steven put his bags by the door then went to see Hamilton. "You asked to see me?"

"Yes. I'm sorry to bother you like this, but I've been troubled by a few things."

"Oh?"

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-one," he answered, giving the age of his alias.

"Quite young to be entrusted with such important documents."

"Well, I have connections. My father knows the boss."

"Ah." He noticed that Steven was dressed for travel. "Are you leaving us, Mr. Talbot? I thought you weren't going until tomorrow."

"I received a call from the London office and they said New York needed the papers a day earlier, so I have changed my schedule accordingly."

"You won't mind if I search your bags, then?"

Steven carried the bags into the manager's office, cooperating as is in all innocence, knowing that the jewels were in the hands of the Royal Mail Service. After Hamilton was done, he let Steven leave. As he was bending over to assist with the bags, Steven helped himself to Hamilton's wallet--his own was a little thin. The porter hailed him a taxi and Steven went to Waterloo Station.

"Has Mr. Talbot gone?" asked the woman at the desk.

"Yes. He's just left," answered the porter.

"But he's forgotten his case from the safe."

"Shall I call the station to have him paged?"

"No. No courier, even a green one, would have forgotten his case," said Hamilton. "Open the safe."

"Only the manager and the assistant manager know the combination."

"Well, call them! We just may have let the Eagle pass through our hands!"

Hamilton took out the briefcase, forced the lock, and opened it to discover the newspaper. "Christ!" He grabbed the phone and called Scotland Yard. He told them what happened, gave them Steven's description and had them put a watch on all the ports.

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

Steven, once he got on the train, realized that he had forgotten the briefcase. Hamilton, who was not as dumb as he seemed, had probably already learned the truth. That would mean that the ports would all have his description. This called for a quick change. When the train made a quick stop, he got off and went into the stations public lavatories. Once inside one of the cubicles he opened his small case and pulled out his makeup kit. Inside were the tools of a quick-change artist. He glued on a grey mustache, which added a few years. He also put on grey bushy eyebrows and a wig. He added wrinkles to his face to complete the look of an old man. He returned the case to the bag and pulled out a worn, brown jacket with patches on the elbows. He put gloves on his hands to hide their lack of age. The final touch was a collapsible cane, like a telescope.

When the train arrived in Southampton, he was helped to a cab by one of the porters. Steven tipped him then told the driver to head for the docks. Once there, he took his bags to the Cunard ticket office. He looked at the departure schedule and saw that a ship was leaving for Capetown. New York would be better, but robbers can't be choosers. He also saw police standing at the exits watching every young man with dark hair. Steven smiled and went up to the counter. He purchased his ticket and headed outside. The glue on his lip was beginning to itch and he couldn't wait to get inside his cabin and take it off.

He stopped before starting up the gangplank and took Hamilton's wallet out of his pocket. He looked at it for a while before making up his mind. He saw a young shoeshine boy and called him over. "Could you do me a favor, young man?"

"'Pends," he said, being cautious.

"I found this wallet on the ground and I was wondering if you could take it to one of the constables for me."

"Guess so." Steven gave him the wallet and a few coins. "Gee, thanks, mister."

Steven watched as the boy went over to one of the constables before he boarded the ship. He got the directions to his cabin and immediately changed out of his costume. By now, they were looking for an old man. As soon as they were out to sea, he would feel much better. Until then, he'd play it safe.

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

The constable, upon opening the wallet, knew that they're quarry had gotten past them somehow. "Where did you get this?" he asked the boy.

"An old gent give it t' me before 'e boarded. Said 'e found it."

"Good lad. You just may have helped us catch a thief." He blew his whistle and the others came running. "He's on the ship! Have them delay departure!"

Hamilton came running up. "What is it?"

"Inspector Hamilton, sir, I thought you were in London."

"Once I heard he was going to Waterloo, I figured he was heading here." The ship's horn sounded. "Damn!" He ran out to the quay and stood there, dejected and angry, as the ship pulled away from the dock.

Steven, standing among the waving crowd, saw him and laughed. This time had been a bit too close for comfort.

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