The Emerald CrossChapter 11

At first Frank couldn't understand what he was hearing. How could the jewels have been stolen when they were still, as far as he knew, in Italy or on their way across the sea? Then he realised, he thought, what Vicars had decided to do. He must be following the plan Frank had suggested in his last letter. As the date of the King's visit drew nearer and nearer, he had chosen, rather than admit the jewels were missing, to fake a robbery.

"Stolen?" Frank repeated, trying to act as if shocked and dismayed by the news. "That's terrible! Who could have taken them?"

"And the King will be here in a few days! What are we going to do?" In desperation, Vicars turned to the policemen. "You must get them back! There will be a generous reward if you find them in time for the investiture. Search all the robbers and fences in Dublin!"

"Don't worry, Sir, we will be doing everything we can to find and return your property. In the meantime, we need to know who has keys to this building and keys to the safe?"

"The key to the safe is kept in a drawer of my desk in my office upstairs. I have the only spare key which I keep at home."

"So anyone with a key to Bedford Tower could have got at the safe key?"

"Yes, I suppose so, if they knew where to look. We don't hand keys to the Tower to just anyone. I don't like what you seem to be suggesting. I trust all my staff; I can't believe they could be involved in this theft."

"We're not accusing anyone at this stage, Sir. It's simply a question of finding out who had access to the keys and the safe. It doesn't look like the lock has been forced."

Arthur missed a trick, Frank thought, he should have bashed the lock in; I hope they don't decide to arrest poor Horlock or Miss Gibbon.

"You will find that many wealthy and important people are in Dublin this month," Vicars told the policemen, "they are here for the Royal visit, for the Exhibition in Herbert Park and the Dublin Horse Show, and where they go, the criminal classes follow. I expect there has been a mass immigration of thieves and pickpockets from London. I don't know how they managed to get into the Castle, but depend on it, it will be a gang of these men who has got away with the jewels."

Vicars was more agitated than Frank had ever seen him. He was probably wishing he'd never got mixed up in the money-raising scheme in the first place. Frank wished he could do something to help his friend and return the jewels to his keeping. Maybe if he went to Italy he could trace what had happened to them and if they were not already on their way to Dublin, he could bring them back himself? The more he considered this, the more it seemed to Frank to be their best hope of getting back the jewels. Of course they would not be back in time for the King's visit, there was no help for that now, but he knew Vicars would sleep easier once they were back in his keeping. Yes, as soon as he had settled some pressing business matters he would head back to San Remo.

Fortunately the people he needed to see were all at home or in their office the next morning, and the afternoon found him enjoying the sun in Herbert Park, site of the Dublin Exhibition. Richard Gorges was with him.

"Why did you drag me out here, Frank? That was a long walk, without even a drink at the end of it! There had better be something worth seeing here."

"I'll be very disappointed if there is not! This exhibition is famous all over the world, Richard, even if you, living in Dublin as you do, know nothing about it. I am particularly keen to see the motor car exhibit. I think when my Mexican scheme has made me a fortune I will get one for myself and drive about the country in great style. If you want a drink, there is sure to be a refreshment stall that sells beer."

The park was filled with bright pavilions, with at their centre a great new building with an immense dome that shone in the sun. A pretty girl handed them a leaflet with a map showing where the various exhibits were to be found.

"See, Richard? Here is the Motor Car Pavilion, and there is the Gallery of Modern Art, we must see that! I've never seen anything by these new Cubists or whatever they call themselves. And there's the beer tent, we'll go there later." Frank knew from experience that getting Richard into the beer tent would be easier than getting him out again. That had better be their last stop.

"You must be sure to sign your names in the Golden Book, Sirs," the girl with the leaflets told them, "it will be kept in a glass case at Trinity College library along with the book of Wells. It will hold the names of all the important visitors to the exhibition. The first page is reserved for His Majesty King Edward himself! It only costs a shilling to sign."

Richard couldn't help laughing. "I have better things to do with my money and so have you, Frank, I think!" As they walked away in the direction of the Motor Car Pavilion he added, "There's always some clever new way that the Irish will find to make money! Signing a Golden Book for a shilling! How absurd. I wonder how much that girl gets for each conceited fool she can persuade to sign."

Frank of course had to pretend that he had not even for a moment considered parting with a shilling for the glory of getting his name in a famous book along with the King's.

The Motor Car Pavilion was everything Frank had hoped for. It was filled with marvels of modern engineering, faster than even the swiftest horse. Frank went fascinated from one to the next, ignoring Richard's grumbles that he would never be able to afford one on what the Army paid him. Then through the crowd he glimpsed a familiar face.

"I believe it's the Count! The man I met in Italy! How strange that he should be here." Perhaps he has come to return the jewels! Frank thought.

Before Frank could speak to the Count or attract his attention, a large group of people moved into the space between them and he lost sight of him. As they moved through the exhibits, Frank kept looking round for him but he was nowhere to be seen.

"You never did tell me what the purpose was of that trip you made to Italy," Richard remarked.

"I can't really say," Frank replied, "I was sent on confidential business by Sir Arthur. He would have gone himself if he wasn't so busy with the King's visit. If it was my secret I'd gladly tell you, but he made me promise never to speak of it. In fact, I meant to tell you, I may have to go back there. It's a nuisance and I'd really rather not. For one thing, it's much too hot at this time of year. Since the Count is here, perhaps he will meet Arthur himself and save me the trouble."

Why was the Count in Dublin? When they had met in Italy, Frank had asked, simply to make conversation, if he knew anyone in the Irish capitol. The Count had replied in the negative. His visit at this time could hardly be a coincidence. Frank determined to track the Count down and make him return the jewels to Vicars' keeping at once. He would pay a visit to every good hotel in Dublin until the man was found. However, by the time they had seen the rest of the exhibition and spent some time in the Guinness refreshment tent, it was too late and the search had to be put off to the next day.

I never knew there were so many hotels in Dublin, Frank thought as he entered yet another luxuriously furnished lobby. He went up to the glossy wooden counter that served as a reception desk, but no clerk stood behind it. After waiting impatiently for two or three minutes, Frank saw a maid carrying a tea tray.

"Could you help me please, I'm looking for an acquaintance, Count Silvio. Is he staying here? He is a middle aged man with a long thin face and little round glasses."

The maid laughed. "Oh, yes, I know who you mean! I didn't know he was a Count, though. I'm sorry, but you've missed him. He left early this morning to catch the ferry."

Frank groaned. "Damn the man!" he muttered. The Count had given him the slip and no doubt was even now well on his way back to Italy.

There was another man waiting in the lobby, who had come in just after Frank, carrying a large bag that probably meant a lengthy stay. Shortly after Frank left the clerk finally returned to the reception desk. The man gave his name as John Kane, checked in to one of the cheaper rooms and then asked, "Is there a man staying here, middle aged, long thin face, little round glasses? What is his name and how long has he been here?"

"I'm sorry Sir, we never give out information about our guests."

"I think you had better tell me everything you know. Here is my identification. You will see that I am a Detective Inspector from Scotland Yard."

Vicars became increasingly anxious as the next few days went by. The police had made no progress at all, in spite of asking hundreds of questions of the Office of Arms personnel. Even Inspector Kane of the Yard seemed to have found no lead. He did manage a brief talk with Frank when they contrived to get a few minutes to themselves in his office. Frank was adamant that he had seen nothing of the jewels since he had left them in Italy. He had waited patiently in London for their return and had left England only on the very morning that the theft was discovered. Vicars would have accepted this story without question except for one thing, the leather jewel case which he had seen when he opened the safe. He had given this to Frank, the jewelled cross and badge safely inside. If this had been left in Italy as Frank said, how could it have been returned to the safe? Even the ribbon that had fastened the badge still lay within, only the jewels themselves were gone. Frank was his friend; he did not like to suspect him of lying, or worse. But the more he considered the evidence, the more he could find no explanation save Frank's dishonesty.

He became convinced, finally, by the fact that Frank seemed to be avoiding the Office of Arms since his return from London. It seemed that he was afraid to face Vicars' suspicions. He decided to seek out Frank and entreat him to return the jewels. They had been good friends for a long time; he would not go to the police with what he knew if he could only have the jewels back. He could pretend that they had been taken from the safe for some purpose and been mislaid. He remembered how Frank had been very short of money just before he left for London. Having such valuable gems in his possession must have been an irresistible temptation. If he tried to sell them or pawn them in Dublin, he would certainly be caught; the police were keeping a close watch on all known fences and pawnshops. He was sure Frank would listen to reason and give them back rather than risk the disgrace to his family of being exposed as a thief.

Vicars started his search in a club where he knew Frank was often to be found. He was surprised to see, not Frank, but Captain Richard Gorges enjoying a glass of whiskey. The surprise was not that Gorges was drinking, that seemed to be his usual occupation, but Vicars had heard that he had been barred from that club for not paying his bill.

"Good evening, Captain. Are you expecting Frank Shackleton here tonight? I must speak to him urgently."

"Sir Arthur! No, Frank won't be here, he's gone to Italy. I thought you knew all about it. He told me he was going on some private business for you. I must say he's been very secretive lately. But still, I shouldn't complain, before he left he paid my bar bill here. What a friend! No, I won't say a word against him. But it is hard on him, Sir Arthur, to always be going abroad on your errands. It's so awfully hot in Italy in summer." It was obvious that this was not the Captain's first drink.

The evidence was mounting up. Afraid to sell the jewels in Dublin, Frank had left the country, lying to his closest friend about the reason for his hasty departure. If he had paid the Captain's bar bill, he could no longer be short of money. Where could the money have come from? He must have managed to sell one of the less identifiable pieces. Perhaps one of the gold collars has been melted down, Vicars thought, or has he sold my mother's pearls? Vicars' last shred of hope dissolved in the bitter knowledge that he had been betrayed.

Bermingham Tower, Dublin Castle