The Panama Hat Series - Volume 1: Tezzie and the Villainous Victorians

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Chapter 9

The boys followed Mr Fairchild out into the beautiful hall where Perkins the butler had his hat and coat ready for him

“Your carriage awaits, sir”

“Thank you, Perkins. Right then boys – off we go,” he said as he was buttoning up his coat and putting on his gloves.

This time the boys were able to go through the front door, and at the bottom of the steps there stood Mr Fairchild’s carriage and horses – it was a Clarence carriage and the horses were dappled grey – harrumphing impatiently and ready to go. As they got to the bottom of the steps they heard a bell ringing and a police carriage came to a halt behind Mr. Fairchild’s carriage. Mr Fairchild walked straight to the police carriage and spoke to the Inspector in low, hurried tones. The Inspector kept glancing up at the boys, a look of incredulity growing on his heavily moustached face as he listened intently. Mr Fairchild handed the Inspector the piece of paper with Old Sarah’s address on it. Then suddenly it was all action. The Sergeant, who had got out of the police carriage, gave instructions to the drivers of both the police carriage and Mr Fairchild’s carriage.

“Right boys – let’s be off.”

(Illustration: carriage and Mr Fairchild talking at the window)

Billy got into Mr Fairchild’s carriage, while Tezzie and Nico excitedly jumped in to the police carriage with the Sergeant and the Inspector. While they raced and clattered along and the Constable next to the driver clanged the bell as hard as he could to make the departure speedy, Tezzie and Nico filled the Inspector in with all of the other details of their adventure so far: meeting Billy, overhearing Billy’s boss in the tavern, talking to the constable and to Perkins who both didn’t take them seriously, and then finally sneaking into Mr Fairchild’s house to tell him the whole story.

“Well well well boys – we have been busy haven’t we? You are lucky that Mr Fairchild is such a kindly gentleman. I’m not sure there is another gentleman in London who has such genuine faith in humankind. He’s a philanthropist, but he never boasts about the good deeds that he does every day. I have to say I was saddened and disappointed to hear that people had stolen from him and Mrs Fairchild. It sounds as though this Mr Dallevill has taken advantage of Mr Fairchild’s generous character and tried to implicate little Billy to boot”

As they approached the address, the carriage began to slow, and the constable stopped ringing the bell. The sergeant ordered the driver to stop just around the corner from the address, so that they would not be seen. Looking from the window of the carriage the boys could see Crook Avenue with its terraced houses on either side, looking as though a giant had squashed them all together. This had led to the houses leaning forward in an ominous manner, so that hardly any sunlight could get through. It was as though the very houses themselves had secrets that they were telling one another and didn’t want any inquisitive passers-by to overhear.

The police officers, Mr Fairchild and the boys all got out of the carriages and made their way to the end of the dark, cobbled Crook Avenue.

Old Sarah’s house was two houses down the road on the left. It was a tall terraced house, with dirty soot-blackened windows, it actually looked as though it hadn’t been lived in for years.

(Illustration: run down house)

“You are absolutely sure that this is the correct address boys?” asked the Inspector doubtfully.

“Um – yes sir” said Billy, although he didn’t look altogether convinced – the house looked abandoned.

Just then, Nico pointed at someone at the opposite end of the street. He looked like quite a big man, huddled over and looking oddly bulky in his long overcoat. Billy’s eyes grew wide with fear as he realised that it was his boss hurrying along towards them, or rather, to Old Sarah’s place. The Inspector made everybody back away just around the corner so that they were completely out of sight.

“That’s him,” Billy whispered to the Inspector, his eyes wide with fear again.

“Are you sure Billy? We need to be absolutely certain before I send my men in there,” began the Inspector

“I can vouch for Billy, Inspector” said Mr Fairchild “ Mr Dallevill is in my employment and there is no doubt about it – he is your man”

The Inspector nodded grimly and turned to the four police constables standing a little behind them. He motioned for the men to gather round him and said to the boys,

“Right boys, you stay here with Mr Fairchild. Get back in the carriage and keep very quiet.”

“Oh please can’t we come with you…?” piped up Nico, eager to be part of the action, especially as they were now on the right side of the law.

“I’m afraid not young man. This is a dangerous business, I don’t want you and your friends to get hurt. This is for the constabulary to deal with now,” and turning to Mr Fairchild “And sir, if you don’t mind, I will need you to come with us to take a look at the jewels, if they are here, and identify them as Lady Fairchild’s. We can’t afford mistakes”

“Yes, of course, Inspector, I am glad to help in any way I can. Boys, I think the Inspector is right, you need to stay here in the safety of the carriage. I have a feeling that these men will be quite angry when they find that their plans have been foiled”

“I’m going to have my men stationed at both ends of the street, there won’t be any profiting from jewel thievery for them today, not on my watch,” said the Inspector, a formidable look of determination settling on his face.

The boys were ushered back to the carriage by Mr Fairchild. Once they were settled in, they each strained to get the best view from the carriage window.

They saw the Inspector having a quiet word with his men. They saw two of the constables positioned themselves at either end of the cobbled street.

Then the Inspector, Mr Fairchild and the remaining constables made their way to the front door of the desolate-looking house. They knocked sharply and firmly on the door. The boys could just about see the door of the house opening and then, straining their necks to see more, they recognised with excitement the tavern man - Harry Blackhat – he was there! This must mean that the jewels were there too!

Although they couldn’t hear what was being said, they could see that an intense discussion was going on between the tavern man and the police officers. Suddenly there was a scuffling an a struggle as the tavern man tried to make a dash for it. He pushed past the officers and ran down the street straight into the strong grasp of the officer posted at the end of the street. The officer nearest the carriage side end of the street ran to assist his colleague with the struggling tavern man.

At the same time the boys saw Billy’s boss appear at the door of the house with a confused look on his face, clearly trying to see what all the commotion was about. He blanched when he saw the police officer and then his eyes widened in further astonishment, then sudden comprehension, at the sight of Mr Fairchild at the door.

Billy’s boss didn’t hang around long – he ran back into the house, quickly followed by the two constables at the door.

“What if he escapes through the back?” Tezzie shouted to no one in particular.

Suddenly Billy made a move, shoving past Tezzie and Nico and jumping out of the carriage. He ran to the front of the carriage and jumped up to the driving seat, stealing the reins from the bemused coachman. Without thinking the coachman moved aside for Billy, and then dismounted, as he really didn’t want to be caught up in all of this: he wasn’t paid enough to go chasing after potentially dangerous robbers.

“What are you doing, Billy?!” shouted Nico.

“We’ve got to stop him,” answered Billy, “it’s now or never – We can’t let him get away!” He used the reins to snap the horses into action. The carriage jerked to life and went careering towards the narrow street at the back of the terraced houses. He gave the horses another jolt of the reins to turn them into the very narrow opening to the back street. What happened next was a complete blur. They saw Billy’s boss clambering over the wall of the back yard, a bag slung over his shoulder. With Billy’s expert horsemanship, (how on earth does Billy know how to drive a horse and carriage? thought Tezzie in admiration) the carriage came to an abrupt halt just in front of Billy’s boss. The horse reared up impressively and gave him such a shock that he toppled over, tripping over his own feet and sending the bag of loot onto the ground, scattering its sparkling contents all over the cobbles.

(Illustration: Boys on horse and carriage, horse rearing up and Billy's boss falling with jewels scattering)

By this point both the Inspector and Mr Fairchild with two of the police officers had made their way to the scene. When they saw Billy’s boss and the jewels all over the back street, the police officers piled on top of Billy’s boss. There was a scuffle and for a while all that could be seen of the officers and Mr Dallevill were flailing arms and legs, with shouts and groans and swearing emanating from the struggling mass of limbs. Finally it looked as though the officers had overpowered Billy’s boss. Two officers were sitting on top of Mr. Dallevill while a third officer was handcuffing him without further delay.

Mr Fairchild hurriedly gestured for the boys to get back in the carriage: – they had jumped out of it in all the excitement.

The Inspector came up to the carriage window, slightly out of breath,

“Sorry you had to see that sir, but as you can see we have our man now, so please feel free to get these brave boys back to your house, while I take this scoundrel down to the station. I will visit you later, to collect your statement, if that’s not too inconvenient?”

“Not at all Inspector – you and your men will always be welcome in my home. You have done us a great service today”

Tezzie, Nico and Billy all piled back into the carriage after Mr Fairchild, who then used his cane to rap smartly on the ceiling of the carriage. The disgruntled coachman, who had by now found himself back in the driving seat, started to lead the horses at a, thankfully, gentle trot back to the home of Mr Fairchild.

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