I’ve no idea if you enjoyed the start of something new I posted last week (consider that a hint to offer a reaction or two, please). But in the hope that you did, here’s a bit more:
He reported to the police station in his best double-breasted suit, navy blue with a pale pinstripe, his black brogues shining, the hat brim tipped just enough to put his eyes in shadow.
After a fortnight working with the Met in London it felt good to be home again. The capital had its charms, but Williams knew Leeds. He understood how the city worked with even having to consider it.
He wasn’t even sure why they’d wanted him down there. All he’d done was read the case file, go and talk to four people, then sit back and wait, time enough to tie up a couple of loose ends. Eight days later, they’d started making arrests and he was on his way back up the A1.
Williams slapped the desk. There were files waiting for him. One thing about being a copper, he’d never be short of a job. Count your blessings, he thought, as he took a folder from the pile.
But he hadn’t even finished the first page before Superintendent Randall called his name. Detective Sergeant Johnny Williams straightened his tie, buttoned his jacket and walked through to the office.
‘Everything fine down South?’ Randall asked as he sat.
‘Went well, sir.’ He shrugged. They’d made the arrests easily.
‘Head not turned by the glamour?’
‘Well, the King invited me over, but I told him I needed to be back here by teatime…’ Williams grinned.
Randall picked up a piece of paper and pushed it across the desk. ‘Something to get your teeth into.’
He read it through quickly. While he’d been gone there’d been two bank jobs, one in Horsforth, the other in Morley. Three men, one of them armed with a sawed-off shotgun. Quick, efficient, no violence, just threats and menace. In both cases, the getaway vehicles had been stolen and recovered about a mile away. There were descriptions, for whatever they were worth. None of the witnesses could agree on much. Violet had told him about the robberies last night. Lying on the bed after his welcome home, smoking cigarettes with the windows open, she’d brought him up to date on the happenings in Leeds. Working as a reporter on the Yorkshire Post, she heard them all.
‘No clues?’ he asked, his arm around her bare shoulders. The slip and brassiere were long gone, tossed somewhere on the floor, and sweat was drying on her skin.
‘If they have, they’re not saying. The rumour is that they’ve nabbed over a thousand pounds.’
That was impressive. Carry on with that and they’d have a good little earner. He moved his hand a little. He needed to feel more welcome.
‘Nasty,’ Williams said.
‘They’ve taken over twelve hundred so far. But keep that to yourself.’ Randall pulled a packet of Black Cats from his pocket and lit one.
‘What’s CID turned up?’
‘Not enough. None of the narks seem to know anything.’
‘I was hoping for a few days’ leave,’ Johnny said.
‘You wouldn’t know what to do with yourself.’
But he would. He’d seen the sun shining through the curtains that morning, smelt spring warmth in the air and thought about Sandsend. He and Violet, a few days away, decent hotel, Whitby just a stroll away along the beach at high tide. Some walking, some fishing, plenty of fresh air.
‘Well…’ he began, but Randall shook his head.
‘I want you on this. If they get away with it, other people will get the same idea. Times are bad, Johnny, you know that. We don’t need folk getting the idea they can be Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde. Not round here.’
Williams picked up the report as he stood. Before he could even take a pace the door flew open and the desk sergeant, old red-faced Murphy, announced,
‘There’s been another one, sir. The Midland Bank on City Square.’
Randall raised an eyebrow.
‘Looks like you know where to start, John.’
He found a parking place on Boar Lane and walked to the building on the corner, solid stone staring out across City Square. Wisps of smoke and the stink of the trains drifted out from the railway station across the street.
Williams nodded at the uniformed constables guarding the door of the Midland Bank and sauntered inside. Another bobby was questioning a distraught woman, while a pair of CID men looked around the building.
It was much like any bank – high ceilings, a grandiose interior of marble and tile, varnished wood and glistening brass. And like any bank, easy enough to rob with plenty of determination and a little planning. The only problem would be getting away in the city traffic.
One of the detectives spotted him and walked slowly across with a rolling gait. He was tall, close to six-and-a-half feet, well into middle age, spectacles crowding a pinched face, most of his hair gone, just leaving a tonsure that was turning grey.
‘Might have known you’d find your way down here.’
‘Good morning, sir.’
Inspector Gibson had started his career with Leeds City Police well before the war. He’d served in the trenches and returned to the job, trudging up from rank to rank. ‘Going to have it solved by dinnertime?’
Johnny Williams gave a small sigh and turned his hat around in his hand.
‘I don’t know sir,’ he answered, voice serious. ‘Depends what time you want to eat.’
Gibson’s face reddened. He snorted and stalked away.
The girl sitting at the desk and cradling a cup of tea in her lap was smiling at him. It was a pert, inviting smile, full lips with bright red lipstick, under dark eyebrows and Carol Lombard blonde hair.
‘Will you?’ she asked.
‘Will I what?’
‘Catch them by dinnertime.’
‘Probably not.’ He grinned and shrugged. ‘But stranger things have happened. Do you work here?’
‘I do. I’m Mr. Osborne’s secretary.’ When he looked at her quizzically, she explained, ‘He’s the manager.’
‘Did you see the robbery, Miss…?’
‘Simpson,’ she answered. ‘Jane Simpson.’ He heard the light emphasis she put on her Christian name. ‘And yes. I was in the office. Over there.’ She pointed at the corner and he was two boxes of wood and glass. ‘It was like watching one of those films.’
She didn’t seem too upset or shocked, he thought. More..entertained.
‘Why don’t you tell me what happened?’ he suggested. ‘Weren’t you scared?’
‘Oh, no. They couldn’t really see me.’ She lowered her head a little, embarrassed. ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.’
‘Detective Sergeant Williams.’ He took out a packet of Gold Flake cigarettes and offered her one. ‘How many of them were there?’
‘Three.’ She closed her eyes to focus. They were wearing jackets and trousers, and all of them had caps. They didn’t look like the kind of customers we have here.’
He smiled. They looked like ordinary working men, she meant, the kind who didn’t have bank accounts.
‘Did one of them have a gun?’
‘Yes. It was like a shotgun, but not as long.’ She cocked her head towards him. ‘Is that right?’
‘He’d sawn down the barrels,’ William explained. ‘Where was Mr. Osbone while all this was going on?’
He couldn’t see she didn’t want to answer, but after a few more words she admitted he’d been in the toilet when it happened.
The men had burst in just after the bank opened at half-past nine. There were only two customers in the place, and three staff behind the counter. The robbery was over in less than thirty seconds.
She gave him descriptions, but they could have fitted half the young men in Leeds. None of them more than twenty-five, dark hair, two tall, the one with the gun short and fatter.
‘How much did they take?’ he asked.
‘Oh.’ She paused, calculating. ‘It can’t have been more than three hundred pounds. Probably not even that. The cashiers only had their morning floats. None of the businesses had brought in their deposits yet. There’s more money here just before we close at three. Or on a Friday – we handle the wages for a number of factories.’
Today was Monday. Interesting, he thought. Whoever was behind it wasn’t thinking ahead.
‘Had you seen any of them in here before?’
She shook her head. ‘I don’t see everyone who comes in. But dressed like that, they’d have stood out, if you know what I mean.’
He understood exactly what she meant. ‘How did they sound?’
‘Sound?’ she asked.
‘They must have shouted when they came in. Did they seem local?’
‘Oh.’ She pursed her lips for a moment. ‘I suppose so. I never really thought about it, so they must have.’
He thanked her and stood up to walk away.
‘Tell me something, Sergeant,’ Miss Simpson said, and he heard the rustle of silk stockings as she crossed her legs. ‘That other policeman didn’t seem to like you.’
‘I’m not sure he really likes anyone.’
But especially you?’ She was grinning now.
He gave her his best smile, showing the chipped tooth. ‘He thinks I’m cocky.’
‘And are you?’
‘You’d probably get the best answer from my wife.’ He hoped that was a small flutter of disappointment on her face. ‘Thank you, Miss Simpson. Jane.’