Finding The Leaden Heart – Gods Of Gold

As I’ve mentioned before – and I’ll be saying again and again – the end of March sees the publication of my new book, The Leaden Heart. It’s the seventh in the Tom Harper series, set in 1899, on the cusp of a brand-new century that is set to bring more changes that anyone could imagine.

In the weeks leading up to it seeing the light of day, time to revisit some of the book in the series…

Hard to believe that it’s only five years since Tom made his first appearance, met as he sprints down Briggate in pursuit of a thief. That’s where it all started, with Gods of Gold, set during the 1890 Leeds Gas Strike, which the union won in just three days, a rare example of the workers coming out on top.

gods of gold cover

It was strange that the book even appeared. I’d written six Richard Nottingham novels, and my publisher asked for something different. I’d always sworn I’d never set anything in Victorian times. But after that I read about the gas strike and I knew it ought to be celebrated. I received help from a strange source, a woman I’d met before, as I’d written a short story about her (Annabelle Atkinson and Mr. Grimshaw). She sat down next to me and said, ‘I was there, luv. I was the landlady at the Victoria. Why don’t you let me tell you about it?’

And so Gods of Gold came about. The title is from a poem by Tom Maguire, one of Leeds’ great unsung political figures, a man who did so much for the working classes here, only to die in poverty far, far too young. He’s buried at Beckett Street Cemetery.

photo (13)

Joanne Harris, the bestselling author (who has a new book coming called The Strawberry Thief) was generous enough to praise the novel: “A vibrant sense of living history, with strong, well-drawn characters…I loved it.”

gog crop

I made a trailer for the book, and here it is, all dusted off and YouTube shiny.

For the launch, I even had 10 tee shirts made, featuring the cover image. Remarkably, nine of them sold, and I still have the other in a drawer. And there were book marks.

Apart from Tom, the book also featured Detective Sergeant Billy Reed, who’s featured in every book so far, as well as Constable Ash, who’s grown since his introduction in uniform. But there was someone else, that woman who told me all about the strike. Annabelle Atkinson.

She’s Annabelle Harper now, of course, and has been for a long time. But they were still courting in those early days, and I had no idea how important a figure she’d become in the series, it’s emotional linchpin, in fact. As the series progresses, in many ways it’s become the story of the Harper family, how they change and age over the years, as much as they’re crime novels or historical fiction. Or why not all three? I ended up writing a play about Annabelle, called The Empress on the Corner, which was performed a few times. A couple of scenes were filmed, including this, which recounts how she and Tom first met. The Victorian pub is part of Abbey House Museum in Leeds – they were kind enough to let us film.

In those days I didn’t know the books would end up taking on such a life of their own. At the risk of sound pretentious, the series has taken on the feel of my magnum opus. Like any writer, I was fumbling in the dark, not sure where things were heading. I have a much clearer sense of things now. That doesn’t mean the people will do what I expect and hope. After all, they’ve gone their own way in the past six books.

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The Road To Here

Let me begin by saying (once again, probably) that I have a new book coming out at the end of March. It’s called The Leaden Heart, and it’s the seventh Tom Harper novel. Safe to say I plan on giving your details before the publication date, and a video trailer is in the works, too. If you’d care to order it, be aware that amazon is the most expensive site currently. I’d suggest here or here – both significantly cheaper and with free UK delivery. It appears that both companies full their proper taxes in the UK.

the leaden heart revised

That’s the self-promotion out of the way. But with something fresh hurtling down the tracks, I found myself wondering just how did I get here? I don’t like the word journey, but it’s been a long strange trip. I probably wrote my first novel when I was 20, its name long since forgotten. I do remember that it was very heavily influenced by Richard Brautigan and Kurt Vonnegut (well, it was 1974) and not very good. By which, of course, I mean derivative, not as clever as it imagined, and piss-poor.

A couple more fairly mainstream novels arrived after I moved to the US. Both naïve, but I was young, those were different times, and I was learning my craft. And then, a detective novel, set in Cincinnati, where I was living. It received some interest, from a couple of publishers and an agent, who wanted me to rewrite it as a young adult novel, as I recall. But in the end it all went nowhere. I was hugely disappointed, but in retrospect, I’m grateful. While some of the idea and characters were okay, it simply wasn’t a good book. Naivete and a crime novel don’t mix, and I still had plenty of growing up to do, even if I didn’t realise it.

My next book was written in 1992/93. Called Career Opportunities, after the Clash song, and set in the London punk scene of 76-78, with the main character an American student over there study. Audacity on my part. I hadn’t been there at the time. I’d already left England. Hell, I hadn’t really been in London much at all in my life.

I still have the manuscript, I remember the general story. I’ve never dared look at it again. I’m sure it’s cute. And that was the problem. My writing was cute. It told a story. Once in a while it could tell it reasonably well. But it couldn’t pierce to the kernel of truth at the heart of a person or a tale. My friend Thom Atkinson has always been able to do that. He’s simply one of the best short story writers and playwrights I know, and we’ve been close for 35 years. Read a piece of his here and you’ll see what I mean. He has it.

I kept writing, of course, but it was mostly music journalism and quickie unauthorised celebrity biographies. They kept me very busy for a number of years and paid well. Important with a mortgage and a young son. But also great writing discipline. By the time I returned to fiction in 2005 I had a clearer vision, even if I was seeing a much older version of Leeds.

I’d become fascinated by the history of my hometown and started to discover it, as best I could on annual trips which involved walking and buying books, and finding old volumes on eBay. Somehow, in all there, I found my soul, my kernel of truth.

The first book I write set in 1730s Leeds was called The Cloth Searcher and featured cloth merchant Tom Williamson and his wife Hannah. A minor character was the town constable, Richard Nottingham.

The setting, the characters, the writing all had something. Just not quite the right thing, though. An agent liked what I was doing, although not that particular book. Try again, I was told.

I did. But first I thought a while. A crime novel, even one set in Leeds in the 1730s, was going to make more sense when someone from the right side of the law was the main character.

That involved a shift. Richard Nottingham became the protagonist, with his family (Mary, Rose, Emily) fairly central, along with his deputy, John Sedgwick. Poor Tom Williamson found himself on the periphery.

I write the book. In 2010 it was finally published (and the road from writing to that is another story). It was The Broken Token.

It might seem that things really started there. It often seems that way to me. But it was had begun 36 years earlier. Just the blink of an eye, really…

Prosperity Street

I’m not quite sure where this came from – even less where it’s going. Maybe nowhere. We’ll see.

But it’s Leeds, it’s 1968. Times are finally beginning to change.

prosperity street

 

Leeds, 1968

He had a description – five feet five, slender, fair hair neatly set, blue eyes, conservatively dressed – and a sample of her handwriting, the start of a letter back to her parents in Ireland. No photographs; she’d taken them all from her lodgings when she left. Her mother was putting a couple from the last holiday in the post.

That was it. Five days had gone by since Sheila Grady vanished. She was over twenty-one, the police barely wanted to know. The Irish grapevine had finally come up with Gerry Hanlon’s name, an enquiry agent who might be able to help. And Hanlon had palmed the initial slog on to him.

‘Ask around,’ he said. ‘You were a copper. You know what to do.’

Oh yes, he did.

Graham Blake parked the Mini on Albion Place. All around him, Leeds was busy, full of Friday afternoon fever, the anticipation of the weekend on the faces. He pushed open the door to the building and climbed three flights of stairs to the Top Temp offices.

Caitlin Parsons had been just sixteen years old when first he’d seen her in 1959. Just over from County Mayo and living with the Rileys. She’d found work in three days, already out skivvying every hour God sent.

But she watched. She learned quickly. Within two years she’d shed all her country manners and acquired a soft sheen to her personality. Her accent had become a gentle, welcoming lilt. She’d grown out her hair and bought clothes were more sophistication. Growing up

Now she was twenty-five and stylish in her mini skirt and tights, still almost as thin as the day she’d stepped off the train, her hair in a fashionable Sassoon bob. No more cleaning for others. She’d been clever enough to spot a gap in the market and she’d started a business. A temporary agency for employers who needed extra staff for a week or a month. Secretarial, most of them. Filing, clerical.

It was flourishing. An office on Albion Place, the new Triumph Herald Vitesse parked outside. She was a success.

FASHION LONDON STREET SCENE

‘Mr. Blake.’ She stood up to shake his hand. ‘I haven’t seen you in a long time.’

‘Two years,’ he told her.

‘That’s right.’ She smiled as she sat behind the desk. ‘A party, wasn’t it?’

‘Engagement.’

‘Susan Williams.’

‘Susan Anderson now,’ he corrected her and they grinned.

‘Times flies,’ she said. ‘Is this business or pleasure?’

‘Business,’ he said. ‘I’m wondering if you’ve ever come across a girl called Sheila Grady.’

‘No.’ She frowned. ‘Not that I know. Should I have?’

‘It’s a long shot. She’s twenty-one. Went missing at the start of the week. She’s Irish, so…’ He let the word hang and shrugged.

‘And of course every Irish person abroad knows each other.’ But there was no anger behind her words.

‘I thought it was worth trying.’

‘I’m sorry to disappoint you.’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ Blake said. He looked around the room. Trendily decorated, colourful, plenty of light. Beyond the door, he could hear the sound of telephones and typing, the two women who worked for her. ‘You’re doing well.’

‘I’ve been lucky. How about you. Since you left the police, I mean.’

Allowed to resign for the good of the force. That was how the superintendent had put it. Fitted up to take the blame by a detective sergeant, not that anyone would listen when he told them. He’d been lucky enough to find this job after all that.

Back when he first met Caitlin Parsons he’d just passed out from cadet to constable, on his fist beat in Harehills. Now she was a success and he was…whatever it was he’d become. Strange what a difference nine years could make.

merrion way

2019…It’s Arrived.

Well, here we are, squarely in a new year. That means it’s time to look ahead, especially as I’m putting the final touches to what I hope will become the eighth Tom Harper novel – if the publisher wants to put it out, of course.

New beginnings.

Before any of that, however, the seventh Tom Harper book will be published at the end of March. Called The Leaden Heart, it’s set in 1899 in a Leeds that’s changing and pushing its way towards the 20th century. Here’s a very short extract:

Harper had just finished putting together the duty roster for August when the telephone rang, the line crackling harshly enough to hurt his bad ear.

‘Tom? It’s Billy. Billy Reed.’

Reed had been a good friend once, the sergeant to Harper’s inspector, until they fell out. Then he’d transferred to the fire brigade and been promoted. Two years ago he’d taken a job in Whitby, in charge of police there.

Annabelle and Elizabeth, Reed’s wife, were still close, exchanging regular letters. She ran a tea shop now, close to Whitby Market. Harper and his family had visited the Christmas before last. It had been a pleasant few days, but not the way it had once been. That would never return.

‘How are you?’

‘I’m fine,’ Reed answered quickly. ‘I hate to ask, but I could use a favour.’

‘What’s happened?’

‘My brother died, so I have to come back to Leeds for the funeral. I think you met him once.’

Long ago. Charlie? He thought he vaguely remembered the name. Thin and pale, with mousy hair and a waxed moustache.

‘I’m sorry, Billy.’

‘We were never that close, but…’

Of course. It was family. Harper understood.

‘Do you need somewhere to stay? Is Elizabeth coming with you?’

‘If you don’t mind. He lived in Harehills and the Victoria’s close. It’ll only be for a few days, if that’s all right. Elizabeth is run off her feet at the tea room. Whitby’s full of holidaymakers and the tea room is packed every day. Besides, she never really knew him.’

They had an empty attic room at the pub. It wasn’t much, but the bed was comfortable.

‘Of course. You know you’ll be welcome, as long as you need,’ Harper said. ‘When are you arriving?’

‘This afternoon. The telegram only came an hour ago.’

‘We’ll expect you.’

He lowered the receiver, picked it up again and asked the operator for the Victoria. They’d had a telephone installed at the beginning of the year. Between his rank and Annabelle’s post as Guardian, he hadn’t been able to fight the idea any longer.

She picked up on the third ring, listening as he explained.

‘I’ll air it out for him.’

the leaden heart revised

 

You can pre-order the book already. The cheapest price seems to be here, with free postage in the UK, although the company seems to have mixed reviews. Here is slightly more expensive, but also has free shipping and is highly-rated.

I also seem to be quite busy with events this year, and maybe more to add to that list. I’m not entirely certain how that’s happened, but they’ll all be fun, especially the two with my good friend Candace Robb and editors from the publisher that issues both our books. It all begins next Friday, January 18, with a talk at Kirkstall Abbey – a place with a very deep history of its own – on the Battle of Holbeck Moor, the incident which kicks off The Dead on Leave. My notes are already prepared…

There will be one more book to come this year, out at the end of September. It’s the sequel to The Hanging Psalm, and it’ll be called The Hocus Girl. Here’s a taste…

 

The man uncurled his fist to show the pocket watch. Candlelight reflected and shimmered on the gold.

‘Open it up,’ Simon Westow said.

Inside the cover, an inscription: From Martha to Walter, my loving husband.

‘See?’ the man said. ‘The real thing, that is. Proper gold. Keeps good time and-’

The knife at his throat silenced him.

‘And it was stolen three days ago,’ Simon said. He held the blade steady, stretching the man’s skin without breaking it. ‘Where’s the rest?’ With a gentle touch, he lifted the watch out of the man’s palm and slipped it into his pocket. ‘Well?’

‘Don’t know.’ The man gasped the words. His head was pushed back against the wall, neck exposed. ‘I bought it from Robby Barstow.’

‘When?’ A little more pressure, enough to bring a single drop of warm blood.

‘Last night.’

The man’s eyes were wide, pleading, the whites showing. It was the truth. He was too terrified to lie.

‘Then you’d best tell Robby I’m coming for him.’

‘What-’ His eyes were wide, pleading.

‘-about the watch?’

‘Yes.’ He breathed out the word, trying not to move at all.

‘Consider it a bad investment.’

Outside, he blinked in the light. A coach rumbled past on the Head Row, the driver trying to make good time on his way to Skipton.

Simon would hunt for Barstow later. The watch was the important item; Walter Haigh was desperate to have it returned, a gift from his late wife. He’d promised a fine reward.

That was what a thief-taker did. Find what had been stolen and return it for a fee.

 

2019…maybe it’s going to be a good year for us all.

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?’

Thank You and Good Wishes

It’s that time, the year drawing to a close. Celebrations and reflections.

And time for me to thank you, all of you, for reading what I write. You make it worthwhile, the bloggers, reviewers, the people who finish one of my books and hopefully enjoy it. Without that, well, there would be nowhere near as much point in doing it.

It’s been quite a year, with high points and turns into the unexpected. My involvement with The Vote Before The Vote exhibition might have been small, but one of the most important things I’ve done. It celebrated the Victorian women from Leeds who laid the foundation for 1918 and 1928, giving the vote to all women. And as a bonus, having Annabelle Harper as part of it wrote her into the fabric of Leeds history.

A play with live jazz. New Briggate Blues, my chance to celebrate Studio 20. Two sold-out performances, and a success because of the director, Ray Brown, the cast and musicians. Remarkable.

I published three books and i’m immensely proud of them all. But The Tin God will always stand head and shoulders above them in my mind. It’s Annabelle’s book, and it feels like the one I was made to write. Something that does her real justice, and I’m so pleased to have been the conduit for that. Even finished the year with a review of it in an academic journal, the first (and probably the last) time that’s happened.

Tin God Journal review

So thank you, every one of you, and I hope 2019 sees all of us with peace and health.

 

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?’