The Emerald Cross Chapter 7

To Frank Shackleton, Park Lane, London from Sir Arthur Vicars, Dublin Castle.

Dear Frank,

I hope your business in London is proceeding as planned and a host of new investors has joined your Mexican venture. Here in Dublin we miss your energy and optimism as we prepare for the Royal visit.

By now you should have received a valuable package with instructions to hand it over to me for safekeeping. It is as you know vitally important that this package is returned to me without delay and with the utmost secrecy. I suggest that you bring it to Dublin Castle directly on your arrival. Please do not attempt to deliver it to me at home, as my nephew Pierce is staying with me for the next few weeks and I don't want him to know anything about this.

I hope you can wind up your business in London very shortly and make haste to join your friends in Ireland.

Regards,

Arthur

To Sir Arthur Vicars, Dublin Castle from Frank Shackleton, Park Lane, London

Dear Arthur,

I have concluded my business in London and indeed great progress has been made. I am eager to return to Dublin and only one thing prevents me from making the journey. I have not yet received the package you mentioned in your letter.

As soon as I have the package I will return to Dublin Castle and with your permission replace it in the safe using your spare key. I think it would be better to do this at night when nobody is around. Horlock is an efficient fellow but he is always hanging about in the Library during working hours.

If the worst happens and the package is not shortly put into my hands, and discovery of the loss of the items seems inevitable, our best course might be to fake a robbery. This would at least distract attention from the true state of affairs and we would not need to break our oath of secrecy. I hope we will not be driven to this desperate measure!

My very best wishes,

Frank

Pierce Mahoney was Sir Arthur's favourite nephew. He had been delighted when the young man had shown an interest in heraldry and had taught him as much as he could. He felt that Pierce was fully competent to hold the office of Cork Herald. Luckily Pierce had shown no interest in his father's nationalist politics. Vicars was a loyal unionist who would never give a position to somebody whose allegiance was in question. Although the two half-brothers had been close friends in their youth, the political leanings of the O'Mahoney had been the cause of many arguments. It was known that the father bitterly regretted the alliance of his son with Vicars and his Unionist friends, and this widened further the rift between the half-brothers.

On a bright June morning, Pierce arrived in Dublin and went first to Vicars' home, where he would stay until after the conclusion of the Royal visit. Vicars was out, but had left a message that Pierce was to meet him at Dublin Castle. Pierce arrived at the Castle to find Stivey the porter enjoying the morning sunshine outside the door of Bedford Tower.

"Well, Stivey! Good day to you. Is Sir Arthur inside?"

"Good morning, Mr Mahoney. Isn't it a fine morning, Sir? There's a message for you from Sir Arthur, he had to go out to see Lord Aberdeen about the arrangements, he said could you wait here for him, if you please, Sir."

"Did he say how long he would be?" asked Pierce.

"Not to me, Sir, but I expect Mr Horlock will know. He's usually to be found in the Library."

Pierce went to look for the secretary. He had not got to know the man well in the six months that Horlock had been working there, but he knew that Vicars rated him highly and everyone praised his efficiency. However, Horlock was not to be found at his usual desk in the Library. Pierce stood at the Library window and looked out at the people passing.

"Where the devil is Horlock?" he thought. "It's extremely boring waiting here with nothing to do. I'll take a look upstairs in Uncle Arthur's office; Horlock might be in there, I suppose."

As he entered Vicars' office, his steps quiet on the blue carpeted floor, he saw Horlock, his back to the door, reading some letters. As soon as he realised someone else was in the room, Horlock pushed the pages back into their envelopes and hid them under some loose sheets of paper.

"What could the secret be," thought Pierce, "that he thinks Uncle Arthur wouldn't want me to see, yet he would trust his secretary to read it?"

"Mr Mahoney! I was just looking for some business papers; it can wait. I'm afraid Sir Arthur has gone out. He had to see Lord Aberdeen on urgent business."

"Yes, I know; Stivey told me. I just came up to see if you knew what time he would be back."

"It shouldn't take long; I expect he'll be back in about half an hour. Why don't you come down to the Library with me and we can wait there together?"

From the glimpse Pierce had got before Horlock's hurried hiding of the papers, they had looked more like personal letters than business documents. Should he warn his uncle that Horlock may have been prying into matters that did not concern him? For all he knew, the secretary may have had permission to read everything in Vicars' office. Maybe he was wrong and they were, after all, business documents. He decided to say nothing to Sir Arthur for the moment, but he would be keeping a sharp eye on Horlock.

On the morning of the third of July, Stivey awaited Sir Arthur Vicars' arrival at Dublin castle with growing apprehension. The early morning cleaner had told him that when she came to work she had found the door of Bedford Tower unlocked. He was almost sure he had locked up as always before leaving work the previous day, but had an uneasy feeling that he would be the one to get the blame. Sir Arthur was notoriously fussy, a perfectionist who expected high standards of all his staff. The only thing worse than having to admit to him that the door may have been unlocked all night would be if he found out from someone else. The cleaner, Mary Farrell, was sure to talk. His safest course of action would be to speak to Sir Arthur as soon as he came in. Luckily, the safe was locked and the cases of priceless rare books in the Library seemed to be untouched. He knew how greatly those books were treasured by Sir Arthur.

Finally Sir Arthur arrived at the Bedford Tower and went straight up to his office. Stivey entered hesitantly.

"Sir Arthur, I've come to tell you about the door."

"What door would that be, Stivey?" Vicars said absent-mindedly as he opened his letters.

"The door to the Tower, Sir. I'm sure I locked it last night, but Mrs Farrell found it unlocked when she came in this morning, Sir. It looks like nothing's been taken, at least, nothing's missing from the Library."

"Do you mean someone could have got in last night, or early this morning? Still, no harm done, I suppose, if nothing was taken. Don't let it happen again, Stivey. That will be all."

Stivey hastily left the office. He had expected, at the very least, a long lecture from Vicars on the importance of security. He could hardly believe he had got off so lightly.

"It must have been Frank," was Vicars' first thought on hearing Stivey's news, "he must have got in to Dublin late last night, and come here after everyone had gone, and used his keys to put back the jewels. The guards know he works here; they wouldn't have stopped him. Then, being tired after the long journey, he forgot to lock the door behind him. Well, never mind, as long as the jewels are safe. I hope Stivey doesn't take it upon himself to report it to the police. It would be better to avoid any kind of an enquiry."

The Courtyard, Dublin Castle