Roaring Thirties Part 5

CHAPTER TWELVE

 

They turned. There were three of them, one with a pistol, another with the sawed-off shotgun, the pair of them wearing new suits, creases still fresh on the trousers. And then there was the night clerk, sweating and fearful, a sack at his feet.

‘Who are you?’ The man with the pistol barked the question, waving the gun slightly.

‘Better be careful with that thing, it might go off. I’m Detective Sergeant Williams. You must be Charlie Cogden.’

The man smiled at the recognition. He was handsome enough, dark hair Brylcreemed back and a wolfish grin, but his face still had the blandness of youth. He reached and put his arm around the clerk’s neck, the barrel of the pistol by the man’s skull.

‘Just in case you’re thinking of arresting us.’

‘It was in my mind when I walked in,’ Johnny admitted. ‘You’re going to find it hard to get away with your driver arrested. And if you take a look-’ he pointed ‘-there are coppers outside that door and more in the back.’

Cogden shook his head, tightening his arm a little around the clerk’s neck. The other man, Tim Carey, was moving nervously from foot to foot, holding the shotgun as if the weapon was hot.

‘I think you’ll help us walk out,’ Cogden said. ‘You don’t want me to shoot him.’

‘No,’ Johnny agreed. ‘I don’t think you want to, either.’ He paused for a second. ‘Have you talked to your girlfriend today?’

‘Why?’

‘She’d have told you about the other men looking for you. It was in the newspaper, too.’

The comment seemed to surprise him.

‘What?’

‘There are some very bad men who want to take all that money you’ve stolen. Take my word for it, you’re better off with me than them.’

‘I don’t believe you.’ Cogden pushed out his chin.

Johnny shrugged.

‘Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ He reached into his pocket and the pistol followed his action. He pulled out a packet of cigarettes and lit one. ‘Now, what are we going to do about this? You want to leave, I want to arrest you.’

‘We have the guns.’ He didn’t seem worried or flustered. ‘That means I make the rules.’

‘And what do you want?’

‘You’re going to walk out with us, make sure the car’s running, and let us drive away.’

‘Or?’

Cogden gave a dark smile. ‘Take a guess. I’ll release him when I’m sure no one’s following us.’

Johnny knew he had no choice. The man had a hostage and he couldn’t risk the clerk’s life.

‘Fine,’ he agreed easily, taking a long drag then stubbing the cigarette out in an ashtray on the counter. ‘Let’s go.’ Carey bent to pick up the sack. ‘Leave that,’ Johnny told him, glancing at Cogden. ‘Don’t push it too far.’

He stared at the man and finally got a nod of agreement.

‘You go out first,’ Cogden ordered. ‘Make sure your men are out of the way. And tell them not to try anything, Sergeant. Timmy, keep him covered.’

Johnny led the way along the corridor and through the kitchen, all too conscious of the gun trained on his back. Timmy, he thought? It just didn’t seem a very adult name for a man with a weapon. At the back door he hesitated, then pushed it open.

‘Stand back, gentlemen,’ he said as he came out into the darkness. The three policemen moved away. Johnny stood aside as Carey slipped into the driver’s seat, Cogden and the clerk in the back.

‘Have one of the men turn the handle,’ Cogden told him. Johnny nodded at a policemen who moved forwards cautiously and began to crank the starter. It caught in a moment and he darted away. ‘Don’t follow me and this fellow will be free before you know it.’

The car moved off, then turned the corner and vanished down the road. Johnny lit another cigarette. Cogden was a cool customer, he had to admit that. He hadn’t panicked for a moment. For an amateur, he seemed disturbingly professional.

‘Sir?’ one of the policeman asked. ‘What do we do now?’

‘Back to what you were doing,’ Johnny told him.

At least he’d arrested another of the gang. And they’d left the loot. Bit by bit, he was chipping away at them. He knew that if he found Carey alone, young Timmy would fold in a minute and without a fight. Cogden was going to be the real challenge. Johnny had looked into the man’s eyes. He wasn’t a killer, but he’d use that gun if he had no other choice.

 

He was late into the station the next morning. Cogden had been true to his word – the night clerk had been released in City Square, and Johnny had questioned him until three.

Violet was sleeping when he slipped into bed. His eyes felt gritty and his rest was broken. When he surfaced, he was alone, with sunlight pouring through the curtains and the alarm clock reading twenty to nine.

He washed, shaved and dressed in a rush, hurrying through traffic into town, and walking into the CID office.

Randall was waiting, perching on Johnny’s desk, the report in his hand.

‘You’re late.’

Johnny nodded at the paper in the superintendent’s hand.

‘I worked most of the night.’

‘And you got another one of them.’

‘Two down. I didn’t have any choice on the others.’

‘I can see that. You’ve met Cogden now. What do you make of him?’

‘He was calm, in control.’

‘Would he shoot?’

‘If he had to, I think he would.’

‘What about the other one?’ He glanced down at the report. ‘Carey.’

‘He’s a follower.’

‘Have you questioned Boyd yet?’

‘I thought I’d let him stew in the cells overnight,’ Johnny said and sighed. ‘I don’t know how much he can tell us, anyway. Wherever they were, they’ll have moved on by now.’

‘We need the rest of them,’ Randall said.

‘I know.’ It galled him that he hadn’t been able to bring in the whole gang. But when there were guns and a hostage, he was powerless. ‘We’ll get them.’

‘At least last night will look good in the newspapers. Too late for the first edition, though.’

‘I just have to work out what Cogden will do next.’

‘Lie low, if he has any sense,’ Randall said.

Johnny shook his head.

‘That’s not his style. Last night would have made headlines if it had worked.’

‘But it didn’t.’

‘No. So he’ll need even bigger or better next time, to show he can do it.’

‘Any ideas?’

‘Not yet.’ He lit a Gold Flake. ‘I’ll go and talk to Boyd. See if he knows anything.’

 

But he didn’t. One night behind bars had left him terrified and talkative. The problem was that all he knew was useless. They’d been hiding out in a house in Hyde Park, on the edge of Woodhouse Moor. Cogden had somewhere else in mind, but he hadn’t mentioned the place. He scouted the jobs himself and gave the others their orders; all they had to do was obey.

The man sounded like one of nature’s officers, and Boyd was a private, happy to be led. The problem was that Johnny had never taken to officers. In his experience, a clever one could be very dangerous.

After an hour he had the man taken away. Boyd was petrified of prison, he’d said that. But he was going to have a few years to learn to like it.

There was a scrawled message waiting on his desk: Please ring your wife.

Johnny picked up the receiver and dialled.

‘You rang?’

‘I see it was the Metropole.’

‘Yes,’ he answered.

‘If I remember correctly, you said it would be too difficult for the gang,’ she said slowly.

‘Did I?’

‘Definitely.’

‘Well, they didn’t get away with anything,’ he said.

‘But I was right.’

‘You might have had a point.’ He was smiling.

‘A very big point.’

‘Perhaps,’ he agreed finally. ‘If you know so much, where will they hit next?’

‘I just report the news,’ Violet said. ‘Aren’t you supposed to be the clever one?’

‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’

‘Excuses, Johnny,’ she chided.

 

He needed to look at the house the gang had used in Hyde Park. There was no need to take anyone with him; the birds would have flown and he worked better on his own.

It was a terraced house on Queen’s Road, close to a small parade of shops. The front door was unlocked, so Johnny simply walked in, looking around from room to room. They’d left everything neat, beds made, no clothes left in the wardrobes. No rush in leaving. Someone had washed the pots in the kitchen. There was an envelope with ‘Sgt. Williams’ written on the front propped against the tea caddy. He ripped it open and pulled out the note.

Dear Sergeant,

It was a pleasure to finally meet you last night, even if the circumstances were a little strained. You have style, I’ll grant you that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough, was it? It’s a pity you have Ken and Asa, but you’ll have discovered that they don’t have too much to tell you.

I’m certain we’ll encounter each other soon. I’m counting on it, actually. But don’t be in any hurry to call on me again.

Sincerely,

Charlie

It made him chuckle. The lad had plenty of cheek. He’d definitely be seeing him. And when that happened, he’d be snapping the cuffs on Cogden’s wrists.

 

Violet laughed when he showed her.

‘How does it feel?’

‘What?’ he asked.

‘To find a criminal with some flair.’

‘Oh, that,’ he said. ‘I like a challenge.’

‘It looks as if you have one. If that note isn’t throwing down the gauntlet, nothing is.’

They were sitting on a bench in the tiny park on Merrion Street, eating fish and chips from newspaper and enjoying the sun.

‘Makes it more interesting.’

‘He seems very full of himself.’

‘There’s no doubt about that,’ Johnny said with a sigh. ‘Why are you smiling?’

‘No particular reason. I think you’re enjoying this.’

‘I misjudged him at the start. I thought he’d make a simple mistake and I’d have him.’

‘And now?’

‘I’m not even sure where to look next.’

‘Better put your thinking cap on, then.’ She stole one of his chips. ‘What did the superintendent say when you showed him the letter?’

‘I came straight here.’

‘But you’ll show it to him later?’

‘Maybe. It’s not evidence or a clue,’ he said.

‘And you don’t want it all round the station. What are you going to do now?’

He crumpled the empty newspaper and put it in the bin.

‘I don’t know.’

‘Do you want my advice?’ Violet asked.

‘Go on, then.’

‘Don’t think about what he’d do. Think about what you’d do if you were him.’

‘We’re that much alike?’

‘I’d say so.’

Johnny sat and thought as he smoked a cigarette.

‘You’re sure?’ he asked eventually.

‘Positive,’ Violet told him. ‘If you were a criminal, leaving a letter like that is exactly what you’d do. It’s rather charming and cheeky, really.’

He frowned. She was right, he knew that, even if he didn’t want to admit it. This had turned into a duel, something personal. And the note meant it was exactly the same for Cogden. The man wouldn’t stray far from Leeds. He’d want to challenge Johnny, to best him as a matter of pride.

But Cogden wouldn’t win. He’d make certain of that. All the man had was himself and Carey. Timmy. Johnny could call on all the resources of Leeds City Police, although he knew he wouldn’t. He preferred to have the victory to himself, at most share it with a couple of others. And Johnny had experience on his side, years of it.

‘Penny for them,’ Violet said.

He grinned. ‘Nowhere near enough.’

‘A penny’s all you’re worth. I need to go. Some of us have to work for a living. We should do something tonight.’

Her eyes glinted in the sun. She blew him another kiss and walked away, men turning to watch her go.

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

‘This wasn’t quite what I had in mind,’ she told him as they sat in the White Eagle on North Street. She’d drunk half her gin and tonic; the whisky glass in front of Johnny was still almost full.

‘The night is still young.’

Violet glanced around the room. Two rumpled men with their dominoes, the landlord slowly polishing glasses before putting them on the shelf, a few young couples whispering to each other.

‘I feel as if I’m getting more ancient by the minute. Are we here to meet anyone interesting?’

‘Definitely.’ Johnny glanced at the clock on the wall. ‘Mind you, he’s already a quarter of an hour late.’

‘Who is it?’

‘His name’s Balthazar Jones.’

Violet stared at him.

‘You just made that up, didn’t you?’

‘It’s true, actually,’ he said, and she raised her eyebrows in disbelief. ‘It’s on his birth certificate. Ask him and he’ll show you. But everyone calls him Barry.’

‘You can’t blame them, I suppose. It’s a bit of a mouthful.’

‘Wonderful baritone voice, too.’ He glanced at her and grinned. ‘I just thought you’d like to know.’

‘Is he likely to break into song? Does he take requests? I’ve a feeling it might be as close to a foxtrot as I get tonight.’

The door swung open and an old man entered. The weather was warm, but he was still wrapped in a heavy overcoat with an astrakhan collar, a homburg hat sitting low on his head. He peered through a pair of thick spectacles, raising a hand when he spotted Johnny, then clumping over in heavy shoes.

‘Sergeant Williams,’ he said with a smile. ‘My, it’s been a while, boy.’ His voice belied his age, musical and lyrical and with a dark, velvety Welsh warmth. ‘And who’s the lovely lady?’

‘I’m Violet. Mrs. Williams.’

‘He never told me how lucky he was.’

‘I don’t think he knows yet,’ she said. ‘Can we get you a drink, Mr. Jones?’

‘Thank you.’ He took off the hat and bobbed his head. ‘Just a half of mild. I’m not really a drinking man.’

When the beer arrived, they moved to a table.

‘You’ve heard about the robberies in town,’ Johnny began.

‘I think the whole world’s heard about them by now,’ Jones said with a gentle smile. ‘Getting under your skin a bit, is it?’

‘A bit.’

‘People were putting good money on you having them all in custody inside a fortnight.’

‘Aren’t they now?’ Violet asked.

‘Not so many,’ Jones told her. ‘Of course, I’m not a betting man myself.’

‘I put a little money on him. Do you think I should change it?’

‘I don’t know about that, miss.’ A grin flickered around his mouth.

‘I’ve arrested half the gang,’ Johnny pointed out.

‘Ah, but not the top one, have you, boy?’

‘Not yet. But I will.’

‘So what do you think I can do to help you? They steal cash, so there’s nothing to fence. And they’ve got themselves some guns, I read.’ He took a small sip from the glass and smacked his lips. ‘That’s not too bad. The devil’s brew, maybe, but he does it well.’

‘You know everyone in town.’

He had contacts with everyone bad in Leeds. He’d been part of the criminal fabric of the city for twenty years before Queen Victoria died. Johnny had heard so many stories about him that at least one or two had to be true.

They’d met when he was still a beat copper and come across a pair of young men trying to rob Jones one night. He’d run them off and helped the man back to his car, surprised to see it was a chauffeur-driven Bentley. Three days later he’d seen a report about two men answering the descriptions of the robbers severely beaten.

Since then, he’d met Jones here and there. But this was the first time he’d asked for a favour.

‘One or two, maybe. I’m an old man now. It’s a new generation these days, boy.’

‘Is your name really Balthazar?’ Violet asked.

‘Indeed it is, miss,’ he said proudly. ‘Balthazar Ezekiel Jones, as my parents had me christened.’

‘It’s impressive,’ she said doubtfully.

‘She not backwards at coming forwards, your missus, is she?’

‘No she’s not,’ Johnny agreed with a grin. ‘She’s really a wicked, wicked woman. It’s one of the reasons I married her.’

‘You still haven’t said what you need from me, Sergeant Williams. I’m never one to forget a good turn.’

‘I want to find Cogden and his friend.’

‘I heard you found them last night,’ Jones said with a small chuckle. ‘You really walked into the Metropole on your own?’

Johnny shrugged. ‘It was better than waiting for them to come out.’

Jones brought out a pipe and filled it with shag tobacco, tamping it all down with a brown fingertip before lighting striking a match.

‘Why do you think I’d know where they are?’ he asked.

‘I think you can find out,’ Johnny said earnestly. ‘If you spread the word, people will look.’

‘They might have someone looking after them.’

‘I don’t think so. They’re never been criminals before. They don’t know people.’

‘They have something, if they’re staying out of sight,’ Jones told him.

‘Luck,’ Johnny said firmly. ‘And it’s about time it ended.’

‘I’ll tell people and see what comes back. But I’m an old man now, Sergeant. People don’t listen to me the way they once did.’

Old he might be, but he still had plenty of influence in Leeds; Johnny knew that. When he gave an order, people rushed to obey.

‘I appreciate it, Barry.’

Jones cocked his head.

‘Least I can do. You knew they had guns last night?’

‘If they hadn’t, I’d have arrested them.’

The man shook his head. ‘I’m not sure if you’re brave or mad.’

‘He’s mad,’ Violet said. ‘Absolutely barking mad.’

‘You might be right,’ Jones agreed with a smile. ‘He was never one for thinking before he acted.’

‘I weighed the chances,’ Johnny protested.

Jones drained the rest of the beer.

‘If I have anything for you, I’ll be in touch, Sergeant.’ Before he put the homburg back on his head, he tipped it at Violet. ‘A pleasure to meet you, miss.’

‘He seems like a very sweet old man,’ she said after he’d left the pub.

‘Don’t be fooled. Barry Jones is as hard as they come. Some of the stories would curl your hair.’

 

Johnny was tired. In the end he and Violet had stayed out late, drinking too many cocktails and dancing far too much. He felt sluggish, a faint headache deep in his skull. But that was the price for fun, and he’d enjoyed himself. As he parked, he grinned at the memory of Violet trying to prove she could move as well as Ginger Rogers. She’d be hurting more than he was this morning.

‘Any progress?’ Randall asked as they sat in his office.

‘Nothing yet. I think we have a couple of days before they try anything else.’

‘Why?’

‘They’ve had to move on from Hyde Park.’ He thought of Cogden’s letter, sitting in his pocket, but he didn’t produce it. ‘So they need to settle in at a new place. And there are only two of them now. That’s going to change their plans.’

‘Have you seen the Post this morning?’

‘Haven’t had time.’ He’d swallowed two aspirin with his tea. The superintendent tossed the newspaper to him.

The piece was on the front page, giving the highlights of the gang’s exploits, before asking why the police hadn’t caught them yet and complaining that the force needed to be better at its job, before every business in the city was robbed.

‘They didn’t mention the two we arrested,’ Johnny complained when he finished.

‘Of course not. More pressure on us.’

‘I thought the papers liked the gang.’

Randall shrugged.

‘The tide’s turned. But it means they’re going to be breathing down our necks now. I want you to start working with Forbes and Gorman.’

‘But-’

The superintendent raised a hand.

‘I know you like working alone, but we need results on this. The chief constable’s ringing me twice a day for updates and I’m sick of lying to him.’

‘We’ll get them.’

‘I know. But we need them now. Before they do something else. We look stupid enough as it is. Work with Forbes and Gorman – they’re good coppers.’

‘I know.’ They were, too. They could think well enough, a mix of brawn and brain. But they didn’t try to look four or five moves ahead. Cogden might have been forced to adjust his plans, but by now he’d have worked out all the possibilities and eventualities. He’d know the opportunities that existed for two men working together. Johnny smiled. ‘We’ll make a good team.’

‘That’s better.’ Randall relaxed. ‘Just bring this pair in, Johnny. And do it soon.’

 

Forbes and Gorman were waiting, both of them large, wearing Burton’s suits that were shiny at the elbows and the seat.

‘Let’s hope they don’t have any more tunnels like they did in Pannal,’ Forbes said. He’d been the one keeping watch and fishing at the lake, hating every minute he wasn’t part of the action. Gorman was usually the quiet one, menacing when he needed to be.

‘First we need to find out where they are,’ Johnny reminded him. ‘Do you two want guns?’

‘We drew them this morning,’ Gorman said and showed the Webley revolver that was weighing down his jacket pocket. ‘Just in case.’

‘Don’t be in a hurry to use it. This isn’t the wild west.’ He thought for a moment. ‘The big question is how Cogden’s finding places to stay. Is it all through friends or family? Why don’t you go and look at those places in Hyde Park and Pannal and see how he got them? Talk to whoever let him use them. Maybe that’ll help us discover where he is.’

‘What about you?’ Forbes asked.

‘People to see, places to go,’ Johnny said brightly. He picked up his hat. ‘Back here this afternoon, gentlemen.’

 

He’d taken Cogden’s file with him, reports from all the interviews done with his family and friends. It was time to go through it once more, to see what he could discover.

The café at the Kardomah on Briggate was still quiet. The windows were open and the air still cool inside as he drank a cup of coffee and pored through the folder. He’d met Charlie now and he had a better image of the man.

Cogden had never held a proper job. He’d never needed to. He’d been educated at Leeds Grammar and taken his school certificate. Travelled a little, spent time abroad and in London, but mostly he’d been around Leeds, enjoying the nightclubs and the easy life.

There was nothing to indicate he’d turn to crime. At school he’d pushed the rules a little, but nothing serious. He’d been the type of boy others followed, the type of easily forceful personality that made a natural leader. He didn’t lack confidence; Johnny could testify to that.

So what had made him begin the robberies? There didn’t seem to be anything that people had noticed, no signs. It was almost as if he’d started on a whim. But he must have understood that sooner or later he’d be caught; he was bright enough.

A game? Maybe it was. Something born from boredom. But it was one hell of a thing. He lit a cigarette and continued reading. The uniforms had done their work well, page after page of interviews. Yet no matter how much he read, Charlie Cogden remained a fairly shadowy figure.

There was little to tell him how the man thought. He obviously liked to push himself – the midget car racing, sailing on the coast. A year ago he’d even learned to fly. Beyond that, he was a blank.

Flying, he thought. There was an aerodrome out at Yeadon. At one time, planes had gone from Soldiers Field, up by Roundhay Park. He’d watched them after he came back from the war, heading off to London and Amsterdam.

It might be worth a drive out there to see what they knew about Cogden. And it was out in the country, a perfect place to hide between jobs. It made as much sense as anything else here. Any less information and he’d be jabbing pins in maps and praying.

There was no simple way out there. Just the Otley Road, far beyond the growing suburbs, by the farms with their sheep and lambs, and miles and miles of drystone walls. Turn left and carry on to the middle of nowhere. That was how he felt by the time he could make out the main building of the aerodrome.

The runway was empty, no specks in the cloudless sky. No aircraft coming in to land or taxiing for take-off. Three large metal hangars were scattered around the field. A motor car and two bicycles stood close to what was little more than a shack, about the size of a cricket pavilion at a village pitch.

At least someone was here.

Three men, in fact. Two of them older, and the third a boy of sixteen who seemed to hang on every word they said as if it was gospel.

‘Do you know someone called Charlie Cogden?’ Johnny asked, and the older man with a bushy ginger moustache smiled.

‘Chalky here taught him to fly, didn’t you Chalky?’ he said. The other man, so pale he could have been consumptive, gave a shy smile He was close to forty, thick hair heavily Brylcreemed, clean shaven and with dark pouches under a pair of pale blue eyes. ‘Chalky teaches and does most of the maintenance. We’re a small operation.’ The man stuck out his hand. ‘I’m Gerald Winthrop.’

‘I’m Detective Sergeant Williams, Leeds Police, C.I.D.’

Chalky and Winthrop had served together, first with the Flying Corps and then the RAF back in the war, apostles for flying.

‘Care for a brew?’ Winthorp asked. ‘Bit dusty out there.’ He looked at the lad. ‘Go and put the kettle on, George, there’s a good chap,’ he ordered and smiled when the boy rushed to obey. ‘Now, what can we do for you? Don’t often have the boys in blue out here.’

‘Have you read about Cogden?’

‘In the papers?’ Winthrop asked. ‘Damn shame, really. Lots of potential as a pilot, hadn’t he, Chalky?’

‘One of the best we’ve taught,’ he agreed and extended his hand. ‘I’m Cecil White. How do you do?’

‘He was a good pupil?’

White nodded.

‘Took to it like a duck to water. I got in touch with a pal of mine in the RAF and said they should recruit him. But Charlie wasn’t interested.’

‘Too regimented for him,’ Winthrop agreed. ‘Never big on discipline, was Charlie. He’d show up a quarter or half an hour late for his lessons as if they didn’t matter. Other people are here early, just bounding to get off the ground.’

‘When was he here last?’ Johnny asked, and the two men glanced at each other.

‘November?’ Winthrop ventured, but Chalky shook his head.

‘It was back in March. You were gone. He dropped by one afternoon wanting to take the Camel out for a spin, but I was stripping down the engine.’

‘Nothing since?’

‘Neither hide nor hair, old chap,’ Winthrop told him.

‘Does he have any friends out here at all?’

‘Not that I can think of…’ Winthrop began, then stared at White. ‘What was the name of that fellow who was coming around a lot last summer? Always looked like he wanted to learn, but would never climb in the cockpit?’

White bit his lip and stared at the ground, squinting at a plank on the floor.

‘Thornton?’

‘No, that’s not it.’

‘Thornwood! That’s the chap.’

‘Yes,’ Winthrop agreed. ‘He and Charlie used to talk a lot, and he lives somewhere round here. Blowed if I know where, though. We only see people who come to the aerodrome.’

‘What else can you tell me about Charlie Cogden?’

‘He was eager,’ White replied after a little reflection. ‘The type who wants to run before he can walk.’

‘How?’

‘As soon as he’d mastered the basics, he wanted to try loops and rolls. We had to stop him – those ʼplanes are too expensive for anyone to be an idiot just because he fancies himself a daredevil.’

‘He wouldn’t be the one trying to put Humpty together again,’ Winthrop added darkly.

‘Is that why he stopped coming?’

‘Not really, old boy. I think he was just bored. He’d learned how to fly, now it was time for something else. No perseverance about the chap, if you know what I mean.’

That fitted with what Johnny already knew. Cogden was always seeking the next experience, something new to excite him.

‘If he returns, or if you hear anything, please let us know,’ he said, then added, ‘Do you ever teach women to fly?’

Winthrop looked at White and laughed.

‘One or two. I married the first one, he married the second. We haven’t had any more since.’

‘Maybe that’s for the best, really,’ Johnny said.

At the post office, no one seemed to know a Mr. Thornwood. Outside, he fished coins from his pocket and rang the superintendent from a telephone box. Someone should be able to chase Thornwood down.

‘Where are you?’ Randall asked.

‘Yeadon. I need some-’

‘Have you found them?’

‘Well, no,’ he admitted.

‘You’d better come back to the station,’ the superintendent told him.

‘Why?’ Johnny asked. ‘What’s happened?’

‘Just get yourself back here and you’ll see,’ Randall said wearily.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

 

Forbes and Gorman were waiting, taking the two extra chairs in the superintendent’s office. Johnny dashed into the CID room, tossing his hat on his desk.

‘What is it?

Randall tossed him the first edition of the Evening Post.

‘Front page,’ was all he said.

It was a big, bold banner headline – CRIMINAL CHALLENGES POLICE – and underneath, in slightly smaller letters: Catch Me If You Can.

He skimmed through quickly. The newspaper had received a letter from Cogden, detailing everything he’d done and how he’d managed to evade the force. Johnny saw his own name there twice, then went back and read over everything more closely, paying special attention to the final paragraph.

I plan on enjoying this jaunt, and I intend to have plenty of fun taunting the police, especially Detective Sergeant Williams. He might have caught two of my men, but to him I say – catch me if you can, sir! I’ll even offer a clue: Soon, very soon, I shall do something at one of the treasures of Leeds. All you have to do is guess which one and stop me.

Johnny put the newspaper back on the desk.

‘Bold,’ he said.

‘At the last count, we’d had twenty telephone calls from people demanding that the police stop him. That’s what the chief constable told me,’ Randall informed him. ‘What are we going to do about it?’

‘Catch him.’

‘We haven’t managed that so far. As he gleefully pointed out.’

‘We need to be ruthless,’ Forbes said. ‘Make an example of him.’ Gorman nodded his agreement.

‘First we have to find him,’ Randall reminded them. He turned to Johnny. ‘You were out at Yeadon?’

‘Cogden learned to fly there. He might still be in the area.’

‘Give these two the details. They can look.’

 

One table in the restaurant at Craven Dairies was filled with young married women, chattering and laughing loudly. Packages from Matthias Robinson and Marshall and Snelgrove were scattered around their feet. Violet eyed them coolly.

‘I was hoping you’d take me out for a cocktail,’ she said, lifting the cup of tea. ‘It’s the least I deserve after what I’m doing for you.’

‘Did you get it?’

She pulled an envelope from her handbag.

‘Here. Bill had it locked away in his desk. He doesn’t know I have the key.’

Johnny read. They’d printed it all, word for work. He took the note that Cogden had left him at the house in Hyde Park and laid them side by side. It was the same writing, no doubt about that.

‘He has a very neat hand, doesn’t he?’ Violet said. ‘And he can spell.’

He handed the letter back and she slipped it away.

‘What do you think he’s going to do?’ she asked.

He smiled.

‘I daresay I’ll work that out.’

‘Are you going to tell your favourite journalist when you do?’

He glanced around the room.

‘If she comes by, I might.’

Violet punched him on the arm, hard enough to hurt.

‘I suppose you think I married you for your looks,’ she told him.

‘You always told me it was my personality.’

‘I lied. Seriously, do you have any ideas?’

‘Not at the moment,’ he admitted with a sigh.

‘Remember, they’re armed.’

‘I’m not likely to forget, don’t worry.’

‘As long as I don’t end up playing nurse to you.’

‘I think your bedside manner might leave something to be desired.’

‘My manners are impeccable,’ Violet protested. ‘That’s what Daddy always told me.’

‘He also thought I wasn’t good enough for you.’

‘No,’ she corrected him, ‘that was Mummy. Daddy just didn’t like you. Which simply shows he’s an excellent judge of character.’ She paused. ‘This is personal, isn’t it? You and Cogden.’

‘Oh yes,’ Johnny agreed with a nod. ‘Very.’

‘Just watch out for yourself.’

‘I will.’

‘Home later?’ she asked.

‘I promise.’

 

‘One of the treasures of Leeds…’ Johnny said.

‘Any ideas?’ Randall asked.

‘Cogden’s playing with us. He wants us to think he means a building.’

‘Maybe he does.’

Johnny shook his head. ‘I don’t think so. That would be too easy.’

‘Make a list. Go and look at them.’

He sat for an hour, scribbling on a notepad then crossing out almost everything he’d written. It wasn’t a building, it couldn’t be. Cogden was a robber. A painting from the art gallery? Something valuable from the museum? He dismissed them. The man wanted money, he wanted something that would end up on the front page of the newspaper.

People, he decided finally. It must have something to do with people. But who was a Leeds treasure? Try as he might, he couldn’t come up with a name.

Finally, settling the hat on his head, he left the office and began to walk. He’d grown up in Leeds. He knew every street in the city centre, could name half of the shops and what had stood there before.

Cogden had challenged him, and Johnny had never backed away from a challenge. But this was one he couldn’t afford to lose. He’d always been the one to make the running on cases; this time he was chasing, and not even knowing where he was going.

The sun beat down, the only relief a thin breeze by the river. Johnny leaned on the parapet and smoked a cigarette, gazing around. He hadn’t managed to come up with anything. There was nothing that seemed to fit.

Cogden and Carey were the only ones left in the gang. What could two men do? They’d need someone to drive, to be waiting in a car with the engine running. He didn’t see how it was possible. But at the same time, he was certain that Cogden had something in mind and he’d try to pull it off.

Trams and buses passed him, lorries, vans and cars carrying people home at the end of a working day. He ground out another cigarette butt on the pavement, walked to the car and drove home.

 

 

He’d left her to sleep, last night’s frock and stockings scattered across the bedroom floor. Johnny was awake early. He’d managed a few hours, but the thoughts kept waking him, until he dressed and padded downstairs to make tea.

Now he stood by the open window, drinking and smoking, watching a squirrel move gracefully from branch to branch in a tree.

Maybe she was right. It made as much sense as anything he’d managed to come up with. But he still didn’t have a clue. At half-past seven he heard her moving around upstairs, and a quarter of an hour later she came into the dining room.

‘Do you have a hangover, too?’ Violet asked.

‘I wasn’t the one knocking back the Brandy Alexanders last night.’

‘Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time,’ she said ruefully. ‘Do you know we’re out of headache powders?’

‘Are we? Well, they say suffering is good for the soul.’ Johnny rubbed his hands together. ‘How about a fried egg with bacon for breakfast?’

‘Have I told you lately that I hate you?’

 

In the office, Johnny spent more than an hour going through the morning’s edition of the Yorkshire Post, hoping that a name might spring out, someone who Cogden might rob. Nothing. He dug out copies for earlier in the week, but there was still no one who seemed probable.

He felt stymied. He was missing something. It was probably staring him in the face and he simply couldn’t see the bloody thing. Only a few days had passed since he’d dismissed Cogden and his gang as amateurs. Johnny snorted. The man had proved he was much more than that. Now he had to catch him, and all Leeds was watching.

He walked along Briggate in his shirtsleeves, the suit jacket over his shoulder, the trilby shading his eyes. Could there be some new members in the gang. He’d no doubt there were plenty of people eager to join. Whether Cogden would want any of them along was a different matter.

Luncheon was a sandwich from the café upstairs in the market, sitting by the window, miles away as he looked down on the throng of shoppers. It was only the clatter of a cup and saucer on the table that brought him back.

‘I saw you up here, Sergeant,’ Balthazar Jones. He was wearing his overcoat in spite of the heat. ‘You look worried.’ Johnny shrugged. ‘I saw the newspaper. He’s trying to make a fool of you.’

‘I know.’

Jones smiled.

‘He’s doing a good job of it, too. A wily man, your friend.’

‘Do you know where he is?’

The man shook his head.

‘No one I’ve talked to has seen him. I told them I’d consider it a personal favour if they found Mr. Cogden. But that’s the problem. Like you said, he’s not really a criminal. Even those friends of yours, Mad Mike and his pals, haven’t managed a sniff. Cogden’s not a professional.’ He rolled the word with his Welsh accent. ‘His only contacts are among his friends.’

‘Which doesn’t help me.’

‘No. And do you know what this treasure of Leeds it is he’ll be going after?’ His eyes twinkled with amusement.

‘I’m working on that. Do you have any ideas? What would you go after?’

‘Me?’ Jones raised his eyebrows. ‘I don’t know, boy. I’m just a retired old soul these days. You’re supposed to be the smart one.’

‘I’ll get him,’ Johnny said. ‘Don’t worry about that.’

‘Oh, I’m not worried. No skin off my nose either way. Although I’ve put some money on you solving this in a fortnight, so I’d appreciate you getting a move on.’

‘How much?’

‘Just a bob. And another on you taking longer. So I win either way.’

‘Thank you for the confidence.’

‘I’d better keep all this to myself. Everyone will be changing their bets.’

‘If you hear anything…’

‘I’ll be on the blower to you. Right, I need to get to the council meeting.’ He stood with an old man’s slowness.

‘I didn’t know you liked politics,’ Johnny said.

‘Can’t stand it. Could shoot them all and I wouldn’t care. But I have some land out in Seacroft and they’re looking at building that new estate out there.’

‘And you just happened the buy the land by chance?’

‘Don’t be so stupid, boy. Little bird told me. I just want to hear it all go through and count how much they’ll be paying me.’ He tipped his hat. ‘Good luck to you, Sergeant.’

 

He was back in the CID office when the thought struck him. A full council meeting. A treasure of Leeds. It was possible. Forbes and Gorman had just returned; no luck on finding a hideout for Cogden anywhere near Yeadon.

‘With me,’ he ordered them. The pair looked up wearily. ‘Now!’

He screeched the Austin to a halt next to the Civic Hall, waving away a uniformed constable who tried to move him on.

‘Police business,’ Johnny said. ‘You go round to the back entrance,’ he told Gorman and turned to Forbes. ‘I want you at the side.’

The building was so new that its stone was still brilliant white. He strode in, following the signs to the council chamber. Outside, he paused for a moment, his hand on the doorknob. Then he pushed it open.

Everyone was lined up against the wall: councilmen, clerks, spectators. He picked out Jones, small, dark and glowering. Cogden was holding the pistol loosely while Carey moved from person to person, collecting wallets and valuables in a hessian sack, the sawed-off shotgun in one hand.

No one had heard him enter. He strolled down the heavily carpeted steps until he was five paces away from Cogden.

‘I think it’s time to call it a day, Charlie.’

Carey and Cogden both turned suddenly.

‘Sergeant.’ Cogden smiled. ‘I’d have been disappointed if you hadn’t managed to come. Especially after my invitation. I’m sorry if it was a little obscure. But I suppose you could call them treasures, since people voted for them. I hope you voted, Sergeant.’

‘Always.’

Cogden nodded his approval. ‘I like a man who takes his civic responsibilities seriously. Why don’t you join the other guests over by the wall? Unfortunately, we don’t have a band, so there’s no dancing today.’

Johnny shook his head.

‘I think I’m fine just where I am, thank you.’ He put a hand in his trouser pocket. ‘There are men waiting at all the ways out. Why don’t you just put down the guns? You’ve had a good run.’

He saw Carey glance at the other man, but Cogden was simply smiling.

‘Carry on,’ Charlie said. ‘Make sure you get everything.’ He raised an eyebrow at Johnny. ‘I’m so very pleased you worked out my little puzzle in the end. You’ll be able to come for a ride. It’ll give us the chance to know each other better.’

‘And if I refuse?’

‘Oh, I suppose I’ll just shoot one of the people over there.’ He grinned. ‘It’s always best to make an offer no one can refuse, I find.’

‘A pity I don’t believe you.’ Everyone was watching him. Half the faces were terrified, the rest stoic and angry. Barry Jones looked furious. ‘You’ve gone to all the trouble of looking like a hero. Hurt anyone and you’ll set all of Leeds against you.’

‘That’s the troubles with appearances,’ Cogden said. ‘They can be so deceptive. You arrest me and I’ll go to jail for years. Isn’t that correct?’

‘Murder someone and they’ll hang you.’

‘Or go out in a blaze and it doesn’t really matter.’

‘A bit final, though.’

Cogden laughed.

‘But at least people will remember me, Sergeant.’ He turned swiftly, raised the weapon and fired into the wall, bringing down a shower of plaster. People dived for the floor. In a moment he was back, staring at Johnny. ‘What’s it going to be, Sergeant?’

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