Roaring 30s – The Final Part

I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and Happy Holidays to you all!

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

‘Last chance, Sergeant.’ Cogden weighed the weapon in his hand.

Johnny knew he didn’t have a choice. He still didn’t believe the man would kill, not yet. But he daren’t take the risk. With a sigh, he nodded and began to walk forwards.

‘I suppose we’d better go, then.’

‘I’ll be right behind you. I’d advise you not to try anything. Got it all, Timmy?’

Carey nodded. Johnny led the way out of the council chamber, through the back door. Cogden kept the gun barrel against his back, telling him which way to turn, until they came out near the rear entrance to the Civic Hall.

‘One of my men is out there,’ Johnny said.

‘Then you’d better tell him to keep his distance.’

The sunlight seemed very bright, reflecting off the white stone, as he walked out. From the corner of his eye he could see Gorman moving forward and waved him away. A Riley Adelphi was parked at the kerb and Cogden pushed him towards it, yanking the back door open.

‘In.’

He settled on the seat, the leather creaking under him, Cogden next, aiming the gun at his belly. Carey threw the sack on the passenger seat and started the engine, pulling away with a squeal of tyres.

Johnny pulled out his cigarettes and lit one, staring out of the window as the car travelled out towards Headingley, painfully aware of the gun trained on him.

‘At least it’s a pleasant day for a drive.’ He turned to look at Cogden. ‘I hope we’re going somewhere scenic.’

‘How does it feel to be humiliated, Sergeant?’

Johnny thought for a moment.

‘Not as terrible as I’d expected.’ He grinned. ‘But don’t worry, the situation will change.’

‘Oh?’ Cogden cocked his head. ‘From where I’m sitting, you don’t seem to be holding much of a hand.’

‘Do you know who you robbed back there?’

‘Councillors, employees, spectators.’ He shrugged.

‘One of whom was the biggest criminal boss in Leeds. Have you ever heard of Balthazer Jones?’ Cogden shook his head. ‘You will,’ Johnny told him. ‘No doubt about that. And you won’t be a pretty sight when he’s done with you.’ He raised his voice. ‘Neither of you will.’

‘He’ll still have to catch us first. You haven’t managed it.’

‘I’d be far more worried about him, if I were you.’ He shifted on the seat and faced Cogden. ‘The best thing you two can do is give yourselves up. You’ll be safe then.’ He paused. ‘Safer, anyway.’

‘A nice fiction, Sergeant.’

‘Fact,’ Johnny told him.

‘Full marks for creativity. Do you mind if I call you Johnny?’ He waved the gun around the car, speeding out into the country beyond Weetwood. ‘Given the situation, I think we can skip the formalities.’

‘Feel free. I wasn’t lying about Barry Jones, by the way. He’s a dangerous man.’

‘He’d have to find us first.’

‘He will,’ Johnny promised. ‘If it’s the last thing he does.’

They passed the turning to Yeadon and continued out towards Otley. He’d been there the year before, a picnic up on the Chevin with Violet on a balmy summer’s evening. Carey geared down for a corner and started on the long hill down towards the town. Halfway down, Cogden tapped Carey on the shoulder.

‘Pull over here,’ he ordered. As the car juddered to a halt, he turned to Johnny. ‘End of the line for you.’ He levelled the pistol. ‘Time you had a bit of a walk. Can’t take you with us, I’m afraid, but thank you for the company.’

Warily, Johnny opened the door and stood on the gravel at the side of the road.

‘I’d say goodbye, but we’ll be seeing each other again.’

‘I do hope so.’ Cogden smiled. ‘I really do.’ He turned to Carey. ‘Let’s go.’

 

It took him almost half an hour of tramping along to reach the small police station in Otley. A constable glanced up in surprise when he opened the door.

‘Hello,’ Johnny said, looking around and smelling the beeswax of the polished wood. ‘I’m Sergeant Williams from Leeds CID. Would you mind if I used your telephone? And could someone make a cup of tea?’

Randall picked up on the first ring.

‘Where are you?’

‘Otley.’

‘Cogden and his friend?’

‘Gone. There wasn’t much I could do to stop them.’

‘I heard what happened at the Civic Hall,’ the superintendent told him. ‘Are you hurt?’

‘Not a scratch. He was quite the gentlemen. The worst is sore feet.’

‘You know Barry Jones was there? He’s seething.’

‘I’m sure he is.’

‘We’d better catch them before he does.’

‘I warned them. They decided to take their chances.’

‘Any idea where they’ve gone?’

‘Too many possibilities. Ilkley, Skipton, up into the Dales…’

‘Right. Get back to town. We’ll talk in the morning.’

Johnny put the receiver back on the cradle and looked at the constable. ‘I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a lift back to Leeds, too, is there?’

 

They were sitting in the bar of the Queen’s Hotel.  He’d telephoned Violet from Otley, hearing a slight gasp before she cleared her throat and asked,

‘So why did he kick you out?’ Her voice was raspy on the line. ‘Did you bore him?’

‘Hardly. I was the soul of wit and information.’

‘There’s a first time for everything, I suppose.’

At the table he could see the relief in her eyes. She’d hugged him close when he walked in.

‘What do you think your friend Barry will do?’ Violet asked as she took a sip of her martini.

‘He won’t be happy, that’s for certain. Barry will want his pound of flesh.’ Johnny grimaced. ‘Probably literally, for a stunt like that. If I don’t find them first, there won’t be anything left to find.’

‘And there’s the rub,’ she said. ‘You won’t need your plan with Mad Mike and his chums.’

‘Very true,’ he agreed. ‘From where they dropped me off, they could have gone into the Dales. Or headed back to Leeds.’

‘Do you think Cogden would have hurt someone?’

‘Oh, I don’t believe so. But I couldn’t take the chance. And I knew he wouldn’t kill me.’

‘He might if he’d spent more time with you.’ She paused. ‘Where do you think he is? What does your gut tell you?’

He drained the last of the whisky and soda.

‘My gut says it’s time to eat. The rest can wait until morning.’

 

‘I couldn’t have done anything,’ Gorman said. ‘Not when he had that gun on you.’

‘I was safe enough. Cogden fancied a drive in the country, that’s all.’

Johnny had seen the Yorkshire Post. News of the raid covered the front page, a mix of outrage and admiration. There were interviews with councillors and clerks. They wanted Cogden caught as soon as possible, demanding that the police do their job. He was growing tired of reading the phrase.

‘Jones is going to be hunting him,’ Randall pointed out. ‘As well as Fish and that lot.’

‘And we don’t even know where to start,’ Gorman added. He was the type to wear his hat in the office.

‘Neither does Barry,’ Johnny said. ‘That’s one thing.’

‘Where do we start?’ asked Forbes.

‘Leeds,’ Johnny told him. ‘This is where they operate. They won’t be too far away.’

‘So you don’t believe they’re up in the Dales?’ Randall asked.

Johnny shook his head.

‘Not once I had chance to think about it. They have somewhere close. The car would have been loaded otherwise. The loot’s stashed somewhere, and that’s where they are.’

Silence filled the room.

‘We’d better get to it, then,’ Johnny said brightly. He took the trilby off his desk and tapped it on his head. ‘You know the routine, gentlemen. Places to go, people to see, questions to ask.’

‘A minute before you go,’ Randall said, and disappeared into his office. Johnny followed. ‘Close the door,’ Randall told him.

‘What is it?’

‘It’s all very well sounding chipper, but we don’t have a clue right now, do we?’

‘Keep digging and we will.’

‘How dangerous do you think Cogden really is?’

He’d thought about it in bed, lying awake as Violet snored softy in her sleep. This time the man had been fine, threatening but not deadly. But in future…

‘I don’t think he’ll want to go to jail,’ Johnny answered, as if that said everything. ‘I’m not sure about Carey; he seemed more scared than anything, just doing what he’s told.’

‘You think they’ll shoot before we take them?’

He took a long time to answer.

‘Cogden probably will.’

 

The Webley felt awkward in his suit pocket. It ruined the line and dragged down on the material. He’d never handled one in his life – during the war it had been an officer’s weapon in the war – and he wouldn’t be able to draw the damn thing quickly. Carrying it around, the weight so ominous, he seemed foolish.

But Randall had insisted. When they found Cogden and Carey, if they couldn’t persuade them to surrender, it could come to guns, and he wanted his officers to be prepared. As he drove the Austin out to Alwoodley, though, it simply didn’t feel right. Carefully, he removed it from his jacket and tucked it under the seat. Immediately, the world seemed brighter.

Anna Bramley was in the house, listening to recordings on the phonograph as she stared out of the window at the back garden. She had a pile of discs next to the machine, the new Al Bowlly record, “The Very Thought Of You,’ playing as the maid ushered him into the living room.

He wait until it finished, the needle clicking in the groove, before he coughed. She turned sharply, eyes widening as she saw him.

‘I’m sorry to disturb you,’ Johnny said.

‘I was miles away. His voice always does that to me.’ She settled in a chair.

‘I saw your boyfriend yesterday.’

There was a flicker behind her eyes, then a sad smile.

‘My former boyfriend,’ she told him. ‘Mummy and Daddy insisted I drop him.’

‘Has he rung?’

‘Twice. They put the ‘phone down on him.’

‘But that doesn’t stop you being in touch.’

Anna gave him an enigmatic look.

‘Why would you think that?’

‘Because I was young once. You heard about what happened yesterday?’

‘Daddy took great pleasure in reading out the newspaper story over breakfast.’

‘There’s one thing that’s not in there. One of the men he robbed yesterday really is one of the most dangerous men in Leeds. He’ll be looking for revenge, and it’ll be a damn sight worse than if I arrest him.’

‘You said that about those other men, too.’

‘I know, but this one trumps them all.’

‘Did you tell Charlie that?’

‘I did, but don’t think he wanted to believe me. I’d like you to tell him.’

‘If we had a way of being in touch, of course.’ There was a brief, faint smile.

‘Of course.’ He didn’t say anything for a long time. ‘I’m serious about this, Miss Bramley. The man will hunt him down and he’ll make sure Charlie pays for it.’

‘If he’s that dangerous, why don’t you arrest him?’ she asked.

‘He’s clever. There’s a difference between knowing something and being able to prove it. And he’ll keep it that way with Charlie. There probably won’t even be a body to find.’

Maybe it was an exaggeration, but probably not by much. For all his grandfatherly exterior, Jones was ruthless when he was crossed. He wouldn’t let this stand. And even in retirement, he could marshal an army of men eager to find favour with him.

Anna Bramley was quiet, staring down at the ground. Finally, she raised her head.

‘What happens if you find him, Sergeant?’

‘He’ll go to jail for a long time. He’s committed crimes, he’s used a gun, he’s taken hostages.’

She nodded.

‘But he’ll be alive?’

‘As long as he gives himself up.’

‘If we’re in touch, I’ll tell him,’ she said. ‘If.’

‘I appreciate that, Miss Bramley.’

 

At the garage on Meanwood Road, he took Arthur Harris aside and told him the same thing. The lad seemed to have settled in well, grease all over his hands and face, and an approving nod from Colin. He seemed more confident and relaxed than the boy he’d chased at the midget car races.

Johnny doubted that Harris still had any contact with Cogden, but he was happy to try every avenue to reach him. Arthur just shook his head.

‘I don’t know,’ was all he’d say. ‘I can tell people, but I don’t think anyone knows him.’

‘Tell everyone,’ Johnny advised. ‘The more people know about it, the better.’

Finally, he made the trip he’d kept putting off. Cogden’s parents. He knew they disapproved of everything their son had done; they’d given Violet a statement about it for the newspaper. But even so, they might be able to offer some help.

They were a disconsolate, quiet couple. Cases of butterflies with their colourful wings lined the walls of their living room, along with dark wooden bookshelves filled with thick volumes. They sat, hunched over, on a small settee, the radio standing in the corner.

‘We’re ashamed of him,’ William Cogden admitted. He was a slight, anonymous man, with none of his son’s charm and confidence. He took off his spectacles and polished them on his shirtsleeve, then placed one veiny hand over his wife’s. She wore an old cardigan and skirt, her feet in slippers, a handkerchief balled between thin fingers. ‘He was such a lovely boy when he was young. We don’t know what happened to him.’

There was a private income; Cogden had never needed to work. The house was quite modest, filled with dead insects and books on nature. The wholesome smell of bread baking in the kitchen. They’d given him weak tea and tried to avoid the topic of Charlie.

‘We don’t understand what he’s become,’ Mrs. Cogden said. ‘It’s been such a strain on us. Last year we had to tell him not to come home again. He apologised, and after a month we let him back in. But he hadn’t changed. Not really.’

‘Used the place like a hotel,’ Mr. Cogden continued. ‘But we just didn’t have the heart to kick him out again.’ He gave Johnny a plaintive look. ‘He’s our only child, you see.’

‘Do you have any idea at all where he might be? He’s in danger.’ He didn’t want to say more than that and add to their worries.

‘No,’ Mr. Cogden told him simply. ‘We don’t.’

‘There’s…’ Mrs. Cogden began, then stopped.

‘Who?’ Johnny asked.

‘Ralph. Bea’s brother.’ He patted his wife’s hand. ‘He and Charlie always had a soft spot for each other.’

‘Do you have his address?’

 

Ralph Warner lived in a comfortable bachelor’s house. He could have been close to sixty – any age between fifty to eighty, really – looked after by a housekeeper who came in twice a day to prepare his meals and clean.

He carried the contented air of a man happy in his life, books lining the walls in every room, a partner’s desk filling the parlour. He sat on one side, smoking his pipe, Johnny on the other with a cigarette.

‘Charlie,’ Warner said thoughtfully. ‘He always had a streak of wildness in him. Have you met my sister?’

‘Yes.’

‘Lovely woman, but no presence about her. Same with that husband of hers. It’s like talking to a pair of damp blankets, unless you get started them started on entomology, and I’ve learned not to do that. I’m not surprised Charlie turned out the way he did.’

‘When did you last see him?’

Warner sat and thought, then took a diary from the pocket of his waistcoat and riffled through it.

‘Must have been a month ago,’ he answered eventually. ‘I was about to leave for a do at the Leeds Club and he showed up out of the blue.’

‘What did he want?’

‘The key to a little place I have. Get away there sometimes. I let him use it. It’s quiet, and I think he has a few friends over. Bit of a party.’

‘Did he return the key?’

‘Oh yes,’ Warner replied with a broad smile. ‘Always does. Brought it back on the Monday morning, although he looked the worse for wear.’ He gave a small chuckle of envy. ‘Not seen any sight of him since, of course. He’s going to jail, isn’t he?’

‘He is,’ Johnny agreed. ‘Worse if someone else finds him first.’

‘What?’

He explained the situation. Warner rubbed his chin, then reached into one of the desk drawers, sorted through some items and brought out a key.

‘He might have gone there, I suppose. You’d better see. I’d rather you found him than this other chap.’

‘Where is it?’

‘Acaster Malbis. Not far from York. My father left it to me in his will. It’s nothing much, but…’ He shrugged. ‘Quiet little place, outside the village.’

With the directions in his pocket, Johnny sat in the Swallow. Should he go back for Forbes and Gorman, or simply head out there? Charlie Cogden probably wasn’t even in the place – after all, he’d found out about it without much trouble.

Back to the station, he’d decided. Better to have too many men around, just in case Cogden was there. They daren’t let him slip through the net again. He was about to start the car when Warner rushed out of the front door, waving his arms.

‘I forgot something, Sergeant. Charlie and a chum of his at school used to bicycle out to some bolthole. Out by Wike, I think. I don’t know if that’s any help.’

‘It might be, sir. Thank you. Do you remember his friend’s name?’

The man shook his head.

‘Not the foggiest. They’re all spots and snot at that age. The only reason I even had time for Charlie is because he was my sister’s boy.’

‘I’ll look into it.’ Anything would be worth following.

 

‘That’s what we have,’ he told the others, pointing to two places on the map of Yorkshire. Two hours had passed; a pair of quick visits from a constable and they had the address in Wike.

Forbes and Gorman both looked serious. Randall sat back in his chair, shirtsleeves rolled up, his hair dishevelled from running his hand through it so often.

‘Which would you put your money on?’ he asked.

Johnny had spent the last few minutes turning that over in his mind. Acaster Malbis would come under the York police, and no one wanted them taking the credit for any arrest. The robberies had all taken place in Leeds, and the Leeds police would finish it.

No, that wasn’t quite true: he wanted to finish it himself. He needed to be the one to march Charlie Cogden out in handcuffs. It wasn’t going to be simple. Even if they found them, Cogden wouldn’t give up easily. He could see it all ending in shots and dead bodies.

When was the last time that had happened in Leeds? There had been criminals with guns, but never bullets exchanged.

‘If we have the information, Jones won’t be too far behind,’ Randall warned. ‘You’d better get moving. If they’re not at Wike, ring me, then get over to the other place. I’ll clear it with York. They can back you up.’

‘I’d like to take a sniper rifle,’ Johnny said. He heard Gorman’s snort, but it was his weapon. Pistols had no accuracy. If he really had to shoot, he wanted to be exact.

Randall nodded.

‘That’s fine. But you all know the rules. This isn’t a showdown.’

But that’s exactly what it will be, Johnny thought.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

He’d signed the chit for the weapon, hefting it in his hand, when the desk sergeant dashed in. Forbes and Gorman had already left; Johnny would have to drive fast to catch them.

‘There are reports of shooting out in Wike!’ His eyes looked frantic, all the calm gone from his voice.

Randall shook his head in exasperation.

‘Jones’ people must be better than we thought. I’ll send more men out there.’

‘The fewer, the better,’ Johnny told him. ‘Less chance of us hitting each other.’

The telephone on his desk began to ring and he scooped up the receiver.

‘I’m just heading out there,’ he said.

‘Make sure you look after yourself.’ Violet’s voice was tender.

‘I will.’

‘I haven’t taken out enough life insurance on you yet.’

‘Just let me know when you have.’ He saw Randall glaring at him. ‘I’ve got to go. I shouldn’t be late getting home.’

 

The Swallow had a good engine. His mechanic kept it well tuned, and Johnny roared through the gears along the ring road, through Shadwell and out to Wike, quick enough to see Forbes’ black Ford pulling in just ahead of him.

There was a constable on the scene, and another in the distance, arm raised to stop traffic.

‘Jones beat us to it,’ Johnny said. The others took out their guns and checked the cylinders. He had the rifle. For a moment he considered bringing the Webley, too. But if he couldn’t do the job with one weapon, more wouldn’t help.

‘What do we have?’ he asked the constable.

‘House down the lane, sir. It’s off by itself. As best as I can make out, there are three men outside somewhere. Not sure how many in the place.’

‘Two,’ Johnny told him.

‘I’ve heard five shots myself. There must have been more earlier on, because someone rang up about them.’

‘Right. You just keep everyone away.’ He turned to the pair of detectives. ‘I suppose we’d better sort this out. I’ll take the back, you two flush them out from the front.’

It was the type of work they could do well. In the crunch, they were good men, reliable. He just had to hope they weren’t too eager.

Johnny crept into the woods that bordered the track. It was shady there, and cooler. He watched every step, trying to avoid twigs and branches, bending over to stay low. For a moment he was back on the Western Front, everything so vivid he could almost smell the mud. Then he was back among the trees, the long grass around his legs, eyes searching ahead and his mind focused again.

He stood behind an oak, eyes moving slowly around the landscape. With all the bushes and undergrowth, it would be easy for someone to remain hidden. At least one of Jones’ men would be back here.

Johnny stopped, picked up a small rock and hefted it into the air so that it landed in the open ground between the woods and a small, old cottage. The building was neglected, several slates missing from the roof, the garden left to grow wild.

He waited, then he heard a rustle twenty feet ahead of him. Someone moving, yet trying to be quiet. Scarcely daring to breathe, Johnny went very carefully, circling around behind the noise until he could see the man.

He wore a cheap suit and a pair of brogues, the hat tilted back on his head, a pistol hanging from his hand. He was peering towards the house, trying to see a target.

Johnny took one silent pace. Then another. He brought up the sniper rifle, extending it until it jabbed the man’s back.

‘You might as well put down the gun,’ he said quietly and bushed the barrel a little deeper into the man’s spine. ‘Now, please.’

The weapon dropped into the grass and the man straightened.

‘Very good,’ Johnny told him. ‘Arms behind you, please.’

It took a minute to march a man to a suitable sapling and cuff his wrists around the trunk.

‘I’ll be back for you later. Make sure you don’t go away.’

He picked up the pistol, a Colt. Suddenly there was a bust of gunfire from the other side of the house, too many shots to count within a few seconds, then a heavy silence. The harsh smell of cordite drifted through the air.

Johnny walked across the open space, rifle in one hand, pistol in the other. He made no attempt to hide; it was safer to be obvious. In the garden he waited, listening. There was a soft sound from inside the house, a low moaning.

The back door was old, warped wood, probably half of it rotten. Softly, he tried the knob, but it wouldn’t turn. Johnny took a breath, stood back and kicked. The door rocked back. For a second, Johnny didn’t move, then strode into the building. It was hot and stuffy, the smells heavy and rotten.

He went from the scullery at the back into what might have been a parlour. Carey was lying on the floor, blood on the wooden boards around him, one hand over a wound in his stomach. Johnny kicked the shotgun away and knelt by him.

‘I’ll get an ambulance here for you. Where’s Charlie?’

‘Gone.’ The man managed a quick smile that turned into a rictus of pain. ‘He knew you’d find us. He didn’t believe you about the others.’

‘Don’t worry about them. Where’s he gone?’

Carey drew a breath.

‘He said to tell you Leeds icon.’

The man needed a hospital if he was going to survive. And that meant getting him out of here quickly. Johnny stood and shouted,

‘It’s Sergeant Williams. Best to drop your guns. We have more men out there.’

He waited for a shot, but none came. Instead, Gorman yelled,

‘We’ve got them.’

He unlocked the door and strode out.

‘We need an ambulance here. Carey’s hurt. I’ve got one of Jones’ men at the back, don’t forget him.’

Gorman came out of the undergrowth.

‘Two of them here. They won’t be giving any trouble.’

‘Cogden’s gone. I’m going after him.’

In the car, he tossed the weapons on the passenger seat, turned the Austin around and speeded back to town. An icon, he thought. Why did the man have to be so bloody cryptic?

He parked at the station, carrying the weapons into the building and returning the sniper rifle and Webley. He kept the Colt he’d taken from Jones’ man.

Randall listened intently as Johnny recounted what had happened.

‘Forbes rang. They found most of the loot at that house. Carey’s on his way to hospital.’

‘He’ll probably survive. It’s Cogden I want. He’s leading me around by the nose.’

‘Town Hall,’ the superintendent said thoughtfully and looked up. When Johnny cocked his head, he explained, ‘Leeds icon. It has to be.’

‘Yes.’ He sighed. ‘Well, I’d better get over there and dig him out, I suppose.’

As he turned to leave, the telephone rang on the superintendent’s desk. Randall picked up the receiver, listened, then said, ‘I’ll tell him,’ and put it back on the cradle. Johnny cocked an eyebrow. ‘Chummy called the Evening Post. A reporter’s gone over there.’

‘Don’t tell me…’

‘Afraid so. I’ll order the area blocked off.’

 

Damn the woman, Johnny thought as he hurried up East Parade. Cogden knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted her there, not any reporter. He crossed the Headrow and Victoria Square, then up the steps between the lions and into the Town Hall.

There was a hushed feel to the building, a commissionaire behind his lectern, ready to direct people. Johnny showed his warrant card and climbed the steps. He knew exactly where Cogden would be. Up at the top, outside on the platform by the clock. On display. He’d want people to see whatever he was going to do.

The Colt weighed heavily in his pocket.

It was a steep climb up several flights of dirty stairs. Light leaked around the edges of the door leading out to the ledge. He grasped the handle, turned it, and emerged into the sunlight.

Cogden was in the corner, leaning back casually against the sooty stone balustrade. He had a pistol in his right hand, trained on Violet. She was standing stock still, her back to Johnny.

‘Very happy you could make the party, Sergeant. Fashionably late, I see.’

‘Only because I didn’t have to wait for my wife this time.’ He glanced out at the rooftops of Leeds and the people below. Some had gathered and were pointing upwards. ‘Nice location, but it’s not much of a do yet.’

‘I thought I’d keep it intimate. Just the three of us. If you take a look behind you, there’s a bottle of champagne. Be a good fellow and open it, will you? I’m a little occupied at the moment.’ His wrist moved and the gun flickered.

‘No glasses?’ Violet asked.

‘We’re roughing it.’

‘Not even chilled,’ Johnny said as he picked it up. He removed the wire and let the cork pop. Up so high, it sounded like a gunshot. He heard a woman scream down on the pavement. ‘Bottoms up,’ he said as he took a swig,’ then handed the bottle to Violet. ‘What’s the occasion?’

‘Never need an excuse to enjoy champagne, do you?’ Cogden said brightly.

‘Of course not.’ Violet stared at him. ‘But the gun is a little off-putting.’

‘I’m sorry, but it’s a professional necessity. And your husband has one.’

‘Don’t worry about him. He won’t draw it unless he has to.’

‘Oh?’ Cogden looked at Johnny.

‘Comes with the territory.’ He paused. ‘So how many of us will go back down?’

‘We’ll all go down. Not sure which way.’

‘I’d rather use the stairs,’ Violet said. ‘Slower, but not as messy.’

‘And you, Sergeant?’

‘Oh, I agree with my wife for once.’

‘I could always take her down with me.’

‘You could,’ Johnny agreed, ‘but I’ve rather grown used to her.’

Smiling, Cogden turned his head to take in the view. As he did, Violet raised the bottle and brought it down on his head. He staggered and dropped the gun.

Before he could recover, Johnny had drawn his pistol.

‘I should have warned you,’ he said. ‘You can never turn your back on her.’

Violet arched an eyebrow.

‘I’ll remember you said that.’

Johnny took out the handcuffs.

‘No grand exit, I’m afraid. But perhaps it’s better this way.’

 

They were sitting in the cocktail bar at the Metropole Hotel. Violet was sipping her Brandy Alexander and Johnny had a Scotch and soda sitting on the table. A trio of violin, piano and cello was playing at the other end of the room.

‘I feel a little sorry for him,’ she said finally.

‘Don’t,’ Johnny said. ‘He’s a criminal, remember that. He did all this very deliberately.’

‘But he had some style, you have to admit that.’

‘He did,’ Johnny acknowledged.

‘And you did it, you know,’ Violet told him.

‘Did what?’

‘Caught him in a fortnight. Today was the last day.’

He smiled.

‘How much did you make?’

‘Not much.’

‘I see.’

‘I was thinking…’ she began.

Johnny looked at her.

‘What?’

‘Something you said earlier – “You could, but I’ve grown used to her”’

‘”Rather grown used to her,” if you’re going to quote me. Why?’

‘What do they call it when you kill your husband?’ she asked sweetly.

‘Murder.’

‘Not justifiable wotsits?’

Definitely murder,’ he assured her.

‘Oh well,’ Violet said. ‘It doesn’t matter then.’ She drained her glass. ‘Are we going to have another?’

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