A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 37

As Constable Starkly took a turn along New Compton Street, he scanned the rows of washing, both out of habit, and because he received an extra guinea in his pay-packet every month for doing so, along this particular stretch of road.

For the last year and a half, there had been no sign of any of the messages he had been charged to watch out for, aside from the occasional signal to indicate Vastra had left London, and to indicate she had returned.

This time, outside the property he was charged with paying particular attention to, there was a row of items he had committed to memory. A green ladies bonnet had a lace doily held against the rim by a clothespin. Next to it, he saw, was a blue checked skirt and a ladies shawl, striped blue, white, red, white, blue. Then there was a final item of information: a priest's gown.

Without even changing his pace, he strolled off in the direction of St. Giles' in the fields.

Vastra had been unable to sleep the previous night, and had resorted, with some difficulty, to meditating, simply to try and get some rest, knowing she would need her wits sharp during the morning.

At first light, she exited, noticing a different loafer detach himself from a doorway, and very unobtrusively begin tailing her, in a way that most well-bred ladies, particularly those almost terrified for a daughter or companion, would never have suspected at all.

Rather than giving anything away, she turned into Sherwin and Soames bank, before requesting to see the manager.

A few minutes later, she was shown into his office.

"Madame." He greeted her, warmly, as any manager would greet a customer who lived around the corner, and had something approximating a quarter of a million pounds in his vault, mostly in paper notes.

"Jeffery." She replied. "I need to take some money out." She was watching his face carefully as he said it, although his surprise looked, and smelled, entirely genuine. "I need about three hundred sovereigns."

The manager looked at her, and she could see the gears working, before he came to the conclusion that a customer with that balance could afford to remove a third of her stock of gold sovereigns.

"I'll instruct one of the porters to bring them up for you, Madame." He said. "Would you like an escort home?"

"I think my reputation would remain intact if someone like Alf or Pete were to walk me home. I wouldn't want to be carrying such a large sum through the streets with me without someone to ensure I arrive home with it.

It took the bank about ten minutes to unlock the vault, and perhaps a further fifteen to count, package, and sign over the money, which was packed into a valise case she had brought with her, each coin wrapped in a scrap of fabric to eliminate the noise from them.

When she got to the door, one of the porters, a man she recognised as part of the security arrangement, was waiting for her, with his coat drawn back, allowing her to see the single action .45 calibre revolver seated in a leather holster under his jacket, attached to his waist. Even for Vastra, an Ninth Chakim Black belt in an art similar to Krav Maga and Systema, although she knew neither was going to be invented for another sixty or so years, it was a reassuring sight.

As it turned out, the return trip passed entirely without incident, although she knew the porter had spotted the tail about ten metres after they left the bank, judging by the quick series of hand signals he passed to two of the local constables, who quickly moved in on the man.

She knew that there would have been a tail on the tail, who would likely have seen that it was the guard who alerted the police, not the demure, entirely unaware widow walking next to him.

When she got back, the London post system had been its usual efficient self. There were a number of messages for her, one of which was a card, contained within an envelope.

"Tonight, at about ten, visit the King's Arms. There will be a man wearing a red jacket sitting in the second to last booth, drinking beer. Place the valise next to him, and return home. Your maid, Jenny, will be returned to your coach yard before midnight tomorrow, along with your valise, if we are content with your payment,."

She smiled. Very considerate of them. At least Clara had the luck to be grabbed by professionals.

The she unfolded her daily copy of the times, and turned to the classified ads.

"Lost near Paternoster Row last night: Church Organ Music book. Contact George Leman at St. Giles on the fields."

She smiled. She had a few hours before the drop, so she headed down into her cellar, deciding that Jenny would be happy to replace one or two training dummies if they happened to suffer a mischief.

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