The Mystery of the Missing Frenchman


H L Marsay

Inspired by the remarkable life of Dorothy Peto, the Metropolitan Police’s first female superintendent.

Even in war, your enemies can linger too close to home… 

While war and revolution continue to ravage Europe, Dorothy Peto embraces her new role at Scotland Yard as she and several detectives investigate a series of jewel thefts. Then Dorothy is tasked with assisting the inscrutable Inspector Derwent and the charming Colonel Cartier to find a missing French aristocrat. Their enquiries take them to a country house in Yorkshire, that’s been converted to a hospital for wounded soldiers and was the last place the Frenchman visited. However, the more questions they ask, the more questions they have.

When the body of a man suspected of being the marquis is discovered, the investigative team returns to London, but the dead man is a stranger. Dorothy speculates that the death, the jewel thefts and the missing Frenchman may be connected. She finds herself tangled in a web of conscientious objectors, Irish republicans and communist agitators, and not everyone is who they appear to be.

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Chapter One

“Sergeant Taylor, I really don’t think she knows anything,” insisted Dorothy as the young maid in the chair next to her sobbed loudly into her apron. Sergeant Taylor frowned as he continued to pace up and down in front of them, his hands clasped behind his back. The hulking figure of Sergeant Brook with his bushy beard was also lurking in the corner, although he remained silent. Personally, Dorothy thought they would have had far more success if she had been allowed to interview the maid alone, or perhaps with the assistance of Sergeant Clark, the older detective they worked with. His grumpy but grandfatherly manner would surely have been an improvement on the shouting and threats coming from Taylor. However, she had kept these thoughts to herself. She knew she was lucky they had even allowed her to be present while they interviewed the female witnesses.

She had been working with this group of detectives, under the leadership of Inspector Derwent, for several months now and she could hardly believe her good fortune. When war first broke out, she—along with Nina Boyle, Mary Allen and Margaret Damer Dawson—had founded the Women Police Volunteers or Women’s Police Service as it was now known. However, traffic duty and training new recruits, although important, had soon lost their appeal compared to solving more serious crimes. Quite by chance she had assisted Inspector Derwent during two murder investigations and had been thrilled when he had requested that she was seconded to Scotland Yard permanently.

On the whole, the three male sergeants had taken a young woman joining them in their stride. They understood that with so many young men leaving the police to go and fight for their country, the empty roles needed to be filled by someone. If there weren’t enough old detectives willing or able to come out of retirement, then these eager young women would have to do. For her part, Dorothy had soon grown accustomed to her new colleagues and their individual quirks. Sergeant Clark had agreed to delay his retirement when war broke out. He was ruled by his stomach and planned his days around tea breaks and mealtimes. Calm and unflappable, he enjoyed grumbling quietly to himself or Dorothy about almost everything, from the weather, to how the war was going.

Brook and Taylor were both family men in their late forties, who hoped the war would be over before either of their sons were old enough to fight. Despite Brook’s slightly threatening appearance, Dorothy believed he had a kind heart. Although so far, he had only spoken precisely thirty-two words to her, he’d always helped when she’d asked him. Taylor was slighter and shorter than Brook but took great pride in his appearance. He was enamoured of everything modern from the police cars he loved to drive at high speed, to the new telephone system that had recently been installed.

Their boss, Inspector Derwent, was far more difficult to understand. He was in his fifties, tall with dark, slightly greying hair and walked with a stick thanks to an injury he had gained during the Boer War. Despite working closely with him, Dorothy still knew very little about his private life.

What she did know was that all her colleagues were irritable and frustrated at the moment. During the previous summer and early autumn, they had been investigating a spate of jewel thefts in and around the capital. The first had occurred in Kensington, the next in Belgravia, followed by two out in Surrey. Then over the long, cold winter, there had been a lull. It was as if the jewel thief had vanished into thin air. That was until ten days ago.

Lady Rimington had been staying with her niece, Mrs Adele Devere, in Mayfair. Mr Devere was a wealthy industrialist. There had been a dinner to celebrate Lady Rimington’s sixtieth birthday. By all accounts it had been a very grand affair. However, when the guest of honour had woken up the following morning, she’d realised her diamond tiara was missing from her dressing room. Like all the other thefts, the stolen jewels were extremely valuable and had been taken without any visible signs of a break-in. All doors and windows were locked from the inside and the jewels had disappeared while the occupants were sound asleep.

The detectives were convinced that in each case a servant must be involved and that whoever was behind the thefts was bribing them to help him gain access, yet they were still no closer to solving the crimes. All the servants at each address had been interviewed and their backgrounds checked. Dorothy had collected a large file of their names, ages, references and all other relevant details. The maid sitting next to her now was one Siobhan O’Neil, aged twenty, born in County Cork but employed by the Deveres as a parlourmaid for the last three years. The young woman blew her nose loudly. Taylor tutted and shook his head.

“Very well, Miss Peto. Take her out of here.” Then raising his voice and wagging his finger. “You’re free to go for now, young lady, but mark my words, we’ll be keeping an eye on you.”

He stomped out of the room followed by Brook, while Dorothy helped the girl to her feet and escorted her to the main door. She watched as Siobhan dashed across the street and into the arms of two other young women, who Dorothy guessed from their striking red hair must be related to her. It was the second time this particular maid had been brought in for questioning, but as far as Dorothy could see, her only crime was being Irish.

Sergeant Taylor had what Dorothy thought was an irrational but unshakable belief that it was Irish republicans who were behind the thefts and that they were using the jewels to finance their political fight against the British. Back in 1914, he had been involved in the arrest of several members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. They had been caught stealing a shipment of rifles meant for the front from the arsenal at Woolwich. Every house that had been burgled employed at least one Irish servant and Taylor was certain there must be a link between them and the republicans. The previous year’s Easter Rising had cemented his conviction. Dorothy had attempted to argue that there were in fact plenty of brave Irishmen fighting for the British over in France and Belgium, but it did no good. Taylor was adamant he was right.

As well as getting used to her colleague’s quirks, Dorothy had also grown accustomed to their individual prejudices. They each had their own theories about who was behind the jewel thefts. Sergeant Clark seemed to think either the communists or the Germans were involved somehow, even though almost all ‘enemy aliens’, as they were now called, had been interred at the start of the war. When pressed on the matter, Sergeant Brook as usual said very little other than: “Plenty of villains in London without needing to import any, Miss Peto.”

Privately, Dorothy preferred the idea that the burglaries were being carried out by a gentleman jewel thief like Raffles, in the novels by E W Hornung, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law. It made more sense to her that someone familiar with the members of the upper classes and the houses they visited was responsible for the crimes than a bunch of hard-drinking, violent republicans or any other foreign political agitators. She hadn’t dared voice her thoughts though. The detectives seemed to have accepted her as part of their team and she didn’t want to give them or Inspector Derwent any reason to doubt their decision to let her work with them. Actually, the inspector hadn’t said who he thought might be behind the jewel thefts either. He simply listened to Taylor and Clark espouse their ideas, occasionally nodding or raising an eyebrow.

After watching Siobhan and the other two women disappear around the corner, Dorothy made her way upstairs. Taylor and Brook had already returned to the office they all shared and were reporting back to Inspector Derwent and Sergeant Clark who, judging by the outdoor coats they were still wearing, had only recently returned themselves.

“It was no good, I’m afraid, sir. She’s still insisting she didn’t see or hear anything unusual, even though we know she was the last servant in Lady Rimington’s room on the night of the party,” explained Taylor. “And another thing… It turns out she’s a cousin of Sean Ahearn. He’s always bad news. Remember we thought he was involved with the Woolwich robbery but couldn’t prove it. We should look into Siobhan’s background and see if she is really as innocent as she claims to be.” Dorothy was about to argue that she had already checked Siobhan’s and the other servants’ references with their previous employers, but the inspector was shaking his head.

“For now, that will have to wait, Taylor,” he said. “I want you and Brook to go down to Hatton Garden and see if anyone has been trying to sell the diamonds there or indeed any of the other jewels on our list. I can’t see why our thief, whoever he is, would want to hold on to the items he has taken. Surely he must need to sell them, so he must have a fence somewhere.” While Taylor and Brook reached for their hats and coats, the inspector turned to Dorothy. “Miss Peto, perhaps you would be kind enough to accompany Sergeant Clark and myself to Trafalgar Square.”

“Certainly, Inspector. Is this to do with the jewel thefts too?” asked Dorothy, relieved that she wasn’t going to spend the rest of the day dealing with yet more paperwork.

“No. This is a different matter. Assistant Commissioner Thomson has asked us to meet a Colonel Louis Lamarchant there. He is from the Deuxième Bureau in Paris and is over here investigating the disappearance of a French citizen. A young man named François Lamarchant. He is the Marquis de Nagay and a relative of the colonel’s.”

Dorothy frowned. “He’s disappeared? Where from? What was he doing over here? Is he a soldier?”

The inspector held up his hand against her barrage of questions. “I am afraid Assistant Commissioner Thomson did not furnish me with any further details. I am hoping Colonel Lamarchant will be able to answer all our questions. Although it may interest you to know that the assistant commissioner said Colonel Lamarchant requested you by name.”

Dorothy felt herself flush with pride.

“Gosh really? That’s rather flattering. Do you know why?”

“I do not,” he replied turning his attention to the copy of The Times lying on the desk next to him. Dorothy didn’t press him any further, but she was a little confused as well as excited. She was well aware, as was anyone who read the newspapers regularly, that Basil Thomson was in charge of Special Branch and most people thought that it was they who were in charge of catching German spies. Assistant Commissioner Thomson, a rather flamboyant man, revelled in the attention this belief brought his way. However, thanks to her brother Raymond’s work with the newly formed and very secret General Intelligence unit, Dorothy knew this wasn’t the case and it was actually Raymond’s branch of the foreign office that was keeping the country safe from spies and other foreign agents who wished them harm.

Raymond’s boss, the extremely private, Vernon Kell, was more than happy with this misconception, as it protected his own agents and allowed them to carry out their work more efficiently. It was rather odd though. The Deuxième Bureau was the French version of General Intelligence. If a member of the DB needed help, wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to seek the assistance of Raymond’s colleagues? Her thoughts were interrupted by the inspector looking up from the newspaper and clearing his throat. He seemed a little embarrassed.

“We are due to meet Colonel Lamarchant at two o’clock this afternoon. I wonder if I might ask you to change out of your uniform and into civilian clothing before our meeting, Miss Peto. It seems the colonel is keen not to draw attention to his presence here in London. He has requested that our meeting should look social rather than official, which is why he chose not to come here to Scotland Yard. Instead, I suggested the three of us meet him in Trafalgar Square. It’s a busy location popular with tourists.”

“Certainly, Inspector. I’ll go home and change immediately,” replied Dorothy with a smile although her heart sank a little. For a moment, she’d allowed herself to believe her presence had been requested because of good reports about her work. Now she feared she was being asked to go along merely to add to the pretence of them meeting socially. A woman, especially one not in uniform, would make their gathering look less formal.

“What’s a marquis when it’s at home anyway?” asked Sergeant Clark, fishing a bag of mint humbugs out of his pocket.

“It’s the English version of a marquess. In this country, he would rank below a duke but above an earl,” explained Dorothy, reciting the information her mother had instilled in her and her sisters. To Mrs Peto, such details as knowing that a baronet ranked above a knight was as important as knowing summer followed spring. “I imagine it’s the same in France, although I believe they have comtes, their version of counts, not earls,” she continued.

“Huh,” grunted the older detective, clearly not impressed. “I thought the guillotine did away with all that nonsense.”

“If you’re ready to leave now, Miss Peto, we can drop you at home on our way to Hatton Garden,” offered Taylor as he and Brook headed out the door. Dorothy grabbed her own hat and coat and hurried to catch them up.

After enduring a rather hair-raising drive with Sergeant Taylor at the wheel, she arrived at her flat in Bloomsbury in less than twenty minutes. She quickly changed into a maroon skirt and cream blouse. It had been such a long time since she’d worn anything other than her blue uniform, she almost didn’t recognise herself. Then she tidied her hair and pinned a velvet hat trimmed with feathers on her head in place of the WPS Norfolk one she normally wore. Finally, she buttoned up her warmest coat and collected her new fur muff, a Christmas present from her parents.

Although it was spring now and the sun was shining, as she stepped outside, the cold still stung her face. Taylor and Brook had offered to wait for her, but she’d declined, deciding to forgo saving a few moments’ travelling time for the sake of her nerves. Instead, she took the underground. Sitting alone at the back of her carriage, she enjoyed watching her fellow passengers. She almost felt invisible without her uniform. After Oxford Circus, the train seemed to slow down, almost crawling along until it reached Piccadilly Circus where it stood at the platform for over three minutes. She checked her watch impatiently. If it didn’t start moving again soon, it would be quicker for her to get off and walk.

As she looked up again, she noticed a large man wearing a dark green bowler hat boarding the train. It was Sean Ahearn, the man who was related to Siobhan. He was known to organise illegal boxing matches and card games. It was also suspected that he had links to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. She lowered her head and watched him puffing on his cigar as he moved along to the next carriage. She was thankful that Taylor wasn’t with her. He was sure to have insisted they follow Ahearn and see what he was up to, and it was almost two o’clock already.

Chapter Two

She finally arrived at Trafalgar Square at five minutes past two. Silently chiding herself for being late, she ran up the stairs of the underground station and into the daylight. She immediately spotted Inspector Derwent and Sergeant Clark on the steps of the National Gallery. Both were standing ramrod straight, sternly surveying the traffic and pedestrians below them.

“So much for looking like tourists on a jolly day out,” murmured Dorothy to herself as she hurried to join them.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” she apologised, slightly breathlessly.

“You’re not. At least not compared to Colonel Lamarchant,” replied the inspector.

“He can’t be much of a timekeeper,” grumbled Sergeant Clark, whose dislike of the French was second only to his dislike of Germans.

“Don’t you think we could have chosen somewhere a little more diplomatic, to meet him?” said Dorothy.

The inspector frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Nelson’s column is right there. He may not want to be remined of Trafalgar.”

“We can’t change history, Miss Peto. I’m sure a military man like the colonel would be the first to acknowledge Britain’s superiority in the field of battle,” replied the inspector, briskly.

“In all things,” chimed in Sergeant Clark. “Doesn’t do any harm to keep them in their place.”

Dorothy sighed. She had hoped Inspector Derwent didn’t share his men’s distrust of anyone who wasn’t an Englishman. Now she doubted this meeting was going to be anything but an entente cordiale.

“They are meant to be our allies,” she gently reminded the two detectives.

Sergeant Clark grunted. “They might be for now, miss,” he replied darkly. “My grandfather fought at Waterloo, you know!”

Dorothy nodded politely. This was a favourite refrain of Sergeant Clark’s that she had heard many times before when the elderly detective had frequently expressed his misgivings about fighting alongside the French.

The three of them continued to wait in the pale sunlight, silent except for the inspector impatiently drumming his fingers against his leg. Despite the fact they were supposed to be pretending to be tourists, neither of her companions seemed in the mood to chat, so Dorothy raised her hand to her eyes and scanned the square for anyone who could possibly be Colonel Lamarchant. She knew the area well. Her father was a landscape artist and she had often visited the National Gallery with him.

She must have stood on these steps a hundred times, but the scene she looked down on seemed odd. People and traffic hurried by as usual but, surrounding the base of Nelson’s column, workmen were busy changing the large wooden placards that had been in place since the start of the war. Hidden behind the large placards were the four lions, who stood guarding the famous column. As a little girl she would run down the gallery steps and across the square to stroke them. Then her father would lift her up on to the plinth so she could climb on their backs. Raymond would always put his hand into their mouths and scream, pretending they were eating him, to make her squeal. She smiled to herself at the memory.

The ugly placards in front of the lions had at first held signs encouraging men to enlist with slogans such as ‘The need for fighting men is urgent’. Now the messages on the boards in front of her focused on those who had been left behind. The one closest to her warned: ‘To dress extravagantly is unpatriotic’. Self-consciously, she stroked her fur muff and hoped it wouldn’t be deemed ‘unpatriotic’.

At the start of the war, there had been an initial surge of jingoism. However, she had noticed a distinct change in the public mood recently. There had been terrible losses at the Somme and other battles, and the army need more men. The previous year, conscription had been introduced. Now, any men between the ages of nineteen and forty-one, providing they were physically fit and not in a few restricted groups, such as members of the clergy or conscientious objectors, were being called up. This increase in conscription had not been popular. In fact, there had been a large demonstration protesting against it in this very square. Huge crowds had gathered and listened to speakers from the British Socialist Party and leading members of the trade unions speaking against the war. Yet, there seemed no end in sight. Dorothy, like everyone else, could only pray for a miracle to make the fighting stop.

She was so lost in her thoughts that, at first, she didn’t spot the gentleman climbing out of a taxicab and walking briskly towards them. He was a little taller than herself, in his mid-forties she would guess, and impeccably dressed. Beneath his top hat that was set at a jaunty angle, his hair was dark and a little long for a military man. Despite a rather large nose, his face was tanned and quite attractive. He was wearing a dark grey tailcoat of fine wool with velvet lapels and an emerald-green waistcoat beneath. Like the inspector, he was also carrying a cane, although his was topped with a gold cockerel and, judging by his easy gait, it appeared to be just for show. Dorothy assumed he must either have met the inspector before or seen a photograph of him, as he smiled broadly as he approached them.

“This must be him. I thought he’d be in uniform,” murmured Sergeant Clark.

“He wants to travel incognito, remember,” replied the inspector, talking through the corner of his mouth as the three of them walked down the steps to meet the new arrival.

“Good afternoon, Colonel Lamarchant,” the inspector said, holding his hand out in greeting. “May I introduce Sergeant Clark and Miss Peto of the WPS.”

“I am enchanted to meet you all and forgive me if I have caused you any inconvenience by preferring to meet away from your Scotland Yard.” He spoke with only the slightest accent as he shook both men by the hand then bowed before taking Dorothy’s own outstretched hand and brushing the back of it with his lips.

“Miss Peto, I am particularly pleased to meet you. I have heard such marvellous reports of the work done by the Women’s Police Service. I am so grateful you agreed to assist me,” he said looking deep into her eyes. She decided close up he was actually quite handsome. Inspector Derwent cleared his throat.

“Colonel, I understand you are concerned about one of your countrymen, who seems to have gone missing?” he began, but the colonel raised a gloved hand.

“That is correct, Inspector, but may I suggest that we discuss the matter somewhere a little warmer and more private. Over one of your excellent afternoon teas, perhaps.”

“As you wish,” agreed the inspector. He and the colonel both raised their canes to summon a taxi at the same time and a second later a black hackney cab pulled up. The colonel immediately opened the back door and helped Dorothy inside, before climbing in himself, followed by Inspector Derwent, then Sergeant Clark.

“Where to, guv?” asked the driver.

“Fortnum and Mason’s, if you please, monsieur,” answered the colonel immediately. Dorothy glanced over to the two detectives. Neither looked particularly pleased that the Frenchman had taken control, but both remained silent.

A few moments later, they arrived outside the famous department store on Piccadilly with the iconic arches above the windows. They were greeted by the livered doorman, then the colonel led the way into the salon and requested a table for four in the corner away from the other customers enjoying their tea. Dorothy had always loved Fortnum’s. Even during a time of war, it felt like nothing bad could happen there. The hampers bearing the initials F&M arriving at Christmas caused such excitement at home in Hampshire and afternoon tea here was such a treat. Before the war, when some of Mrs Pankhurst’s suffragettes had been imprisoned for smashing the windows, Fortnum and Mason had generously sent hampers to the offending women while they waited to be released from Holloway. This had made Dorothy love the place even more.

Within moments, waitresses in their white frilly pinafores covered the pristine tablecloth with china plates, milk jugs, dishes of sugar lumps and slices of lemon, and filled their cups with tea. Since the start of the war, these waitresses had taken over from the German waiters, who had always served the tables of the city’s chicest establishments. Seconds later, cake stands arrived with finger sandwiches on the lowest tier, scones, jam and cream on the second and delicate cakes and pastries on the upper plate.

“Would you like me to take notes, Sergeant Clark?” offered Dorothy politely.

“That’s very kind of you, Miss Peto. No point in us both scribbling,” replied the older detective, licking his lips as he helped himself to two cucumber sandwiches and a scone. By now, Dorothy knew her colleague well enough to guess he wouldn’t want to have his afternoon tea interrupted with the tiresome business of note taking, but she thought it polite to ask. She never wanted to be accused of treading on anyone’s toes. However, as she was about to open her notebook, the colonel gently placed a hand on her arm.

“Mademoiselle, I respect your diligence, but I fear if you are observed writing down what we discuss, it may draw unwanted attention to our conversation,” he said softly. Dorothy glanced over to Inspector Derwent, who gave her an almost imperceptible nod and she slid the notebook back into her handbag.

“Colonel, perhaps you could tell us a little about the Marquis de Nagay?” began the inspector.

“But of course, Inspector,” replied the colonel. “François Lamarchant is a young man of impeccable character and a cousin of mine. He is twenty-five years old and has been educated in London, Paris, Berlin and St Petersburg. Sadly, his parents died when he was only twelve. He was then raised by his grandparents. He inherited his title from his grandfather five years ago.”

The colonel produced a photograph from his pocket. He handed it first to the inspector who after a brief look, showed it to Sergeant Clark and then passed it on to Dorothy. She studied it carefully. It was a picture of a young man standing behind an elderly woman dressed all in black, who was sitting on a chair. Dorothy thought the young man looked rather thin and weak. He had large soulful eyes, a thin moustache and like the colonel was wearing his fair curling hair a little longer than most of the men she knew.

“Is that the marquis’s grandmother?” she asked.

“It is,” replied the colonel. “They are very close. The photograph was taken last summer at their house in Deauville.”

“Should I presume that the marquis is a wealthy young man?” asked the inspector. The colonel gave a slight shrug of his shoulders as he sliced a scone in half and began to smear it with jam.

“You may well say that, Inspector. The Nagay family own some of the largest coal mines in Jura. As well as the house in Deauville, they have a large townhouse in the eighth arrondissement, a chateau in the Loire Valley and a vineyard close to Bordeaux.”

“I see,” replied the inspector. “May I ask why he is not fighting for his country?”

The colonel shook his head sadly.

“Regrettably, François has suffered from ill health for many years and so was unable to join the army. He was struck by consumption when he was still a boy.” He patted his chest. “There is damage to his lungs, I believe.”

Dorothy nodded sympathetically. Her brother Raymond had been declared unfit to fight too, thanks to his flat feet. He’d been terribly upset until he’d found another way to help his country, by working for General Intelligence.

“And what brought him across the Channel?” asked the inspector. A note of impatience was creeping into his voice. Dorothy noticed that unlike Sergeant Clark and Colonel Lamarchant, he had not eaten anything and had barely touched his tea.

“He was protecting his family’s assets, Inspector. They invested heavily in the American Radiator Company. This company opened a factory in Jura, close to the family’s coal mines. The same company also has factories in Germany and here in England. Since the outbreak of war, they have begun producing armaments. François was planning on visiting the factory in Hull while he was here. I also understand he was travelling with some of his grandmother’s jewel collection. The Nagay sapphires are three perfectly cut jewels from Kashmir and of the most exquisite blue. The exact same shade as your eyes, Miss Peto. They are almost a national treasure, you might say.”

“May I ask what the value of these national treasures might be?” pressed the inspector as Dorothy felt herself blush.

The colonel paused and waggled his head from side to side before replying. “I would say about fifty thousand of your pounds sterling.” Sergeant Clark gave a low whistle as the colonel continued with his story. “The marquis decided that should the unthinkable happen and the Germans increase their hold in France, then the jewels would be safer here in London. He arrived in England last Friday and was due to deposit the sapphires with Barings Bank the following Tuesday but neither he nor the jewels arrived. Nobody has heard from him for almost a week. Naturally, his grandmother is extremely concerned. As a relative and a member of the Deuxième Bureau, I volunteered to come here and investigate the matter.” The colonel finished his explanation and popped the piece of scone in his mouth. Then he clapped his hands together and loudly declared it to be “très bon!” to the waitress who was hovering nearby.

Dorothy, who had been listening intently to the colonel, glanced across to Inspector Derwent and tried to read his expression. Was he thinking as she was that the young Frenchman could have been kidnapped or even killed for the valuable jewels he had with him? Then another thought struck her. Could there be a connection to the jewel thefts they had been investigating? However, as the inspector slowly began to stir his tea, she found it impossible to decipher the thoughts that may be in his head. A few seconds later, he finally spoke.

“Forgive me, Colonel, but it seems odd to me that the marquis would delay safely depositing these extremely valuable jewels for almost five days.”

The colonel gave a slight smile. “I see your mind is already working, is it not, Inspector.” He turned conspiratorially to Dorothy. “Assistant Commissioner Thomson was quite correct, Miss Peto. Inspector Derwent is the right man for the job.” Then turning back to the inspector: “It appears François delayed going to the bank because he had an even more pressing appointment to keep. He had taken a suite at The Ritz. I have spoken to the manager there. After checking in, François told the manager he had an appointment to keep that afternoon and would then be travelling to Yorkshire for the weekend, but that he would return on Monday morning.”

“Was there a safe in his hotel suite? Did he leave the sapphires there or in the main hotel safe?” asked the inspector.

“No, he did not,” replied the colonel. “I took the liberty of checking this as soon as I arrived in London. Monsieur Jarvis, the manager of The Ritz, was kind enough to escort me to François’s suite. He had reserved it for two weeks, you understand. Mr Jarvis opened the safe for my benefit. It was completely empty. The majority of François’s luggage was there in the room, waiting to be unpacked. He only took a small valise with him when he left on the Friday. Monsieur Jarvis assured me the suite would remain as it is until the return of François.”

“Did you happen to discover who his appointment was with last Friday?” enquired Dorothy, hoping the hotel manager was correct in thinking the Frenchman would indeed return.

“I did, Miss Peto,” replied the colonel. “My information is that before he left London, he paid a visit to his tailor, on Savile Row. May I suggest we do the same, Inspector?”

“Very well,” agreed Inspector Derwent. “If you think it will be worthwhile.”

The colonel grinned. “But of course, Inspector! A tailor knows all a gentleman’s secrets. He is second only to his valet in this regard,” replied the colonel, who was already on his feet and helping Dorothy out of her chair. She noticed the inspector and Sergeant Clark exchange a look. Although both were professional men and the inspector, in particular, was always smartly dressed, neither had a valet nor a Savile Row tailor. The colonel lit a cigarette then took Dorothy’s arm and led her out of Fortnum’s with the two detectives following behind. The four of them made their way down Piccadilly, then turned on to Albany, which in turn led on to Savile Row.

All the way, the colonel chattered to Dorothy, extolling the virtues of British tweed as he smoked his Gauloises. She found him quite charming; however, when he occasionally threw a comment over his shoulder to the grim-faced Inspector Derwent or Sergeant Clark, he received little more than a grunt in response. They really weren’t very good at playing their parts.

End of Excerpt

This book will begin shipping August 13, 2024

The Mystery of the Missing Frenchman is currently available in digital format only:

ISBN: 978-1-962707-63-3

August 13, 2024

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