The Emerald CrossChapter 13

Anyone who was acquainted with Sir Arthur Vicars before the crisis would have remarked on how much the loss of the jewels had aged him. Those who worked with him at the Office of Arms observed the shortness of temper and increasing bitterness that now characterised him. After a few months went by without any sign of the jewels being detected, in spite of the continuing efforts of Inspector Kane and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, it was decided to hold an inquiry at the Castle, where all concerned in the affair would be questioned. It would be held at the scene of the crime, in the Library in Bedford Tower.

In this mood of bitter frustration, Vicars sent for Inspector Kane, asking for a report on what the police had found out to date. The Inspector, while he had very little to tell, had questions of his own.

"I am more convinced than ever, Sir Arthur, that at least one of the robbers must have had some close connection with the Office of Arms. They knew that the safe contained valuable jewels, they knew where you kept the keys. They must have had a key to the outside door or got someone with a key to leave it open for them. It's clear that none of the locks have been forced. I can only conclude that the thieves had help from one of your staff. Perhaps someone was deceived or blackmailed into giving them information. Have you noticed any of your men behaving in a suspicious manner, Sir Arthur? Do you think any of them could be vulnerable to blackmail, for any reason? Think carefully; I realise you might not want to betray a confidence, but if you fail to speak up the thieves might go free."

When the police had first suggested to Vicars that someone on his staff could be involved, they had been met with angry astonishment. Vicars had defended the people who worked for him vehemently, protesting their trustworthiness. That he was silent now suggested to John Kane that he had something to reveal.

"Please tell me if you have any reason to suspect anyone. I will investigate with care and discretion and if it turns out that your suspicions are without foundation, no one will hear of the matter."

"I do indeed have my suspicions, Inspector," Vicars finally burst out, "of a man I would have trusted with my life, before the robbery! How I have been betrayed! After I did everything I could to help him. I gave him his position here, I took him completely into my confidence, I even for a time shared my house with him! And now he has robbed me and run away like a mangy rat."

"I take it you are referring to Mr Francis Shackleton?"

"Yes! Before he left for London in June he told me he was desperately in need of money. Then I find that while he was here in July, he paid all his debts in full, amounting to a considerable sum! Where did the money come from, I ask you? What did he sell? Was it my mother's pearls? Find that out, Inspector Kane, and you will soon bring him to justice!"

"Why did you not tell me this before? We would have had more chance of getting the jewels back. I hear Shackleton has gone to the continent, they are probably broken up and the gold melted down by now."

"I could not believe he would do me such a great wrong. It was only on thinking it over for some time that I realised how much I had been deceived."

"I have been suspicious of Mr Shackleton for some time. We have proved that he was still in England on the night of the robbery, but did you know that he had a friend staying at a hotel in Dublin, who I suspect was there under a false name? We have tried to track this man down with no success."

"So that's how he did it! He had an accomplice."

"I shall get the police in Italy to find him and send him back. Better say he is wanted here to answer routine questions at the inquiry. If he thinks we are on to him he will try to escape and then we may never get him."

Inspector Kane left Bedford Tower with his head full of plans for the investigation to find out how Frank had got hold of a large sum of money in the space of a few short weeks. He had no idea that Vicars' suspicions were actually based on much more conclusive evidence. Vicars' loyalty to the King had won out over his need for justice and revenge. Both men were unaware that their conversation had been overheard. Stivey had been eager for the latest news on the progress of the investigation. After showing the Inspector up to Vicars' office, he had stayed to listen at the door.

It was just bad luck that Richard Gorges happened to go into the tavern where Stivey was a regular. The Captain had already had a few drinks and was looking as usual for a pub where they did not know him too well to give him credit.

"Stivey! Is your duty at the Castle over for the day? I don't suppose you know anything of when Frank will be back, do you?"

"Well, yes I do, though I probably shouldn't say. He has been sent for to answer questions at this inquiry they're going to have."

"Surely they can't suspect Frank? He wasn't even in Ireland at the time."

"Sir Arthur suspects him all right! I overheard him tell that Inspector from Scotland Yard that he was sure Mr Shackleton was the guilty man, with the help of an accomplice, he said. He was telling the Inspector he should be investigating Mr Shackleton if he wanted to solve the case."

"The treacherous hound! I knew he hated me, but I always thought he would stand up for Frank. I'll tell you what it is, Stivey, he needs a scapegoat so he doesn't get into trouble for leaving the keys lying around. Very easy to send Frank out of the country and then blame him when he's not here to defend himself! Well, he'll soon find out Frank has friends who can speak up for him. Do you think he is at the Castle now?"

"I think so, he is often there quite late these days."

Quickly downing his shot of whiskey, Richard rode off to Dublin Castle. He rapped loudly on the door of Bedford Tower which was opened by Pierce Mahoney.

"Good evening, Mahoney. Is Sir Arthur here?"

"Captain Gorges! Yes, he's in his office, but he is very busy at the moment. Do you have an appointment to see him?"

"He'll see me whether he likes it or not!" Richard exclaimed angrily. He pushed past Pierce and marched up the stairs to Vicars' office. He burst into the room without even knocking.

"How dare you make such cowardly accusations against Frank! Did you think he had no friends who would defend him? He thought of you as a friend and did everything you wanted of him and this is how you repay him! Going to the police with ridiculous accusations! Frank is no thief! You can say what you like about me, I don't care about that, but don't you have any feelings of loyalty and gratitude to poor Frank? First you send him off to Italy and then you tell the police to pry into his business, when he's not even here to speak for himself. You should be ashamed, Sir Arthur!"

"Captain Gorges! You are not welcome at my office. Leave at once or I will call the police to have you removed."

"What? Will you accuse me to the police now?"

"I wouldn't be surprised if you were in it with Frank! I expect it was your idea in the first place. I always said you were a bad influence on him. I wish now I had been more insistent on breaking up your friendship."

Richard pulled out his pistol and pointed it at Vicars' head. "No man calls me a thief. Take back that remark, or by God I'll shoot you like a dog!"

It might have been Vicars' last moment if Pierce had not rushed in and knocked Richard's arm as hard as he could. The gun went off and the bullet shattered a window, splinters of glass flying in all directions.

"Don't be a fool, Captain!" Pierce shouted.

"Call the police!" shouted Vicars.

Realising that the sound of the gunshot and the broken window was sure to attract police attention very soon, Richard lowered his gun. "All right, I won't shoot you this time. But if Frank is arrested I will be back!"

In Italy, Frank was bewildered. His investigation had uncovered something very strange. He was writing a letter to Vicars to bring him up to date on what he had found out when he received the telegram that summoned him back to Ireland. No need to send it by post, he thought, he would be back before a letter could reach Dublin. If in the bustle of the inquiry he could not arrange a private conversation with Arthur, he could just hand him the letter. He read through what he had just written.

Dear Arthur,

I'm sorry my stay in Dublin in July was so brief, I hardly had time to talk to you. I take it you have despaired of the return of the jewels and that is why you went ahead with my suggestion of staging a robbery. The police seem to have been completely fooled! I felt that our last hope of getting the jewels back was if I returned to Italy and tried to trace them through Count Silvio.

I am lodging with a very pleasant English family, the Mainwarings, who live here in San Remo. At first I was unsuccessful in my attempts to see the Count, and was turned away on several occasions by his manservant. I was about to give up hope and return to Dublin when Mrs Mainwaring told me there was to be a dinner at the Count's palazzo and the family, and myself as their guest, were all invited!

The guests were given a glass of sherry in the salon before dinner. We were joined by an elderly man with a great deal of white hair, supporting himself with an ebony walking stick. This old gentleman was introduced to me as the Count! He was nothing like the man I met when I was here before who called himself Count Silvio. I had a brief conversation with the Count's estate manager, who happens to be Irish, and he informed me that the Count spent the winter and spring at his villa in Rome, returning to San Remo only when the hot weather began, by which time I was in London. There is a mystery here which I cannot begin to understand, but whoever it was to whom I gave the jewels, it was certainly not Count Silvio!

I am at a loss to know how to proceed and I fear I may have to return to Dublin with no profit from my investigation.

Yours,

Frank

John Kane, on the other hand, was starting to feel more optimistic about his investigation. At last someone had given him some really useful information. If Shackleton had raised money to pay his debts by selling one of the items stolen from the safe, it should not be too difficult to track down the buyer, accuse him of receiving stolen goods and offer him a reduced sentence if he gave evidence against Shackleton. Yes, at last he could see his way to proving Shackleton guilty of the theft. He decided to concentrate his investigation on the few days that Shackleton had spent in Dublin immediately after the crime, before his hurried departure for Italy.

He found that Frank had certainly lived as if money was not a problem. He had paid off his debts and treated himself and his constant companion, Captain Richard Gorges, to some very good dinners. It was inevitable that the trail Kane was following would eventually lead him to the drinking club where Richard had recently been reinstated after Frank had generously paid his bar bill. It happened that Richard was there with some of his Army friends. Kane judged that the Captain, while having had a few, was not so drunk as to be unable to give sensible answers to his questions. "You are Captain Richard Gorges, are you not? A friend of Mr Francis Shackleton?"

"Yes, I am, and I know who you are! You're the Inspector from Scotland Yard, hired to pin the theft on Frank, and let the real thieves get away!"

"You're wrong, Captain, I want to see justice done and the jewels returned to their proper home in Dublin Castle. If you know anything about the truth of this affair, please tell me at once."

"I only know that Frank couldn't possibly have been involved. He wasn't even in Ireland at the time."

"We think he had an accomplice. Shackleton certainly knew how to get at the jewels and we think he may have had some part in disposing of them. My investigation to date has shown that while he was last in Dublin, Shackleton managed to spend a good deal of money. Did he say anything to you, by any chance, about how that money was acquired?"

"Is that why you and that idiot Vicars are so suspicious of Frank? You thought he had been selling some stolen property? Well, I can tell you exactly how he made the money. I was there when he got it; I saw it being put into his hands. Two thousand pounds! He won it at Ascot; he bet on White Knight at twenty to one for the Gold Cup."

the Courtyard, Dublin Castle