The Casebook of Rupert Swann
Chapter 1

Foreword

The Leeds-based private detective Rupert Swann was introduced to readers in the story ‘Beyond the Grave’, published recently. The Yorkshireman was a contemporary of Sherlock Holmes. He employed similar methods to those used by his renowned London counterpart and in his limited geographical operating area he had a reputation similar to that which Holmes attained in a larger field. All information related to Swann’s work is held by his great-great niece, who is prepared to release parts of it from time to time. She has now supplied an account of a further case. It is given below:

The Golden Globe

It was a Tuesday morning in April and Rupert Swann was basking in the aftermath of a memorable Monday evening. He had treated his only aunt to an excellent meal at his favourite restaurant, Powolny’s, followed by an evening of opera at the Grand Theatre, where both of them had been entranced by a memorable performance of Il Trovatore.

It was ten-thirty, and after his usual breakfast of two soft-boiled eggs, three slices of home-made brown bread, honey and very strong tea with milk but no sugar, Swann was sitting by the fire, humming Verdi’s stirring music, or rather trying to do so while smoking a pipe. He had decided to give himself a relaxing day, perhaps with a little piano practice, but that was not to be. At ten minutes to eleven, a messenger boy arrived with a letter dated that day. It had been sent from an address in the Woodhouse area, about a mile from Swann’s rooms. He opened it and read:

Dear Mr Swann,

I am turning to you because I find myself in some distress and am hopeful that you may be able to help me. If it will not inconvenience you too much, I propose to call on you at noon today. I appreciate that this gives you very little notice, but I think you will understand when I explain the position.

If you are unable to give me any of your time when I arrive, perhaps we could arrange to meet again as quickly as possible, as I am extremely anxious to have your advice in a most urgent matter.

Yours faithfully, Victor Gordon

With a rueful sigh, Swann resigned himself to hearing a tale of woe, but he managed to get in a short spell of music-making before his would-be client arrived. Gordon came punctually and the housekeeper accompanied him upstairs. He was a short, stoutly-built man in his fifties, with sparse light-brown hair, a florid face and a pair of frank, innocent-looking blue eyes. Swann motioned him to one of the two fireside chairs and sat facing him.

Gordon gave the impression of being flustered and he began to speak rapidly. “It’s so kind of you to see me at such short notice, Mr Swann. I have a serious problem and I do hope that you may be able to help me. I will not inquire into your charges as I shall happily pay whatever you think may be appropriate.”

“I am willing to hear what you have to say,” Swann replied. “My next client is not due for nearly an hour, so if you give me the particulars of your difficulty, I will see what I can do.” In fact Swann had not had a case for two weeks and wasn’t expecting another caller, but he deemed it wise to give the impression that he was busy.

Gordon fidgeted for a moment then settled down. “Well, Mr Swann, I think it only fair to tell you that I have already reported my position to the police. I have also told the insurance people that I intended to ask you to take a hand. They were relieved to hear that I am consulting an agent of your eminence.”

Swann smiled. “Mr Gordon, so far you have mentioned the police and an insurance company, but you have not yet said what has befallen you. Please start at the beginning and give me all the details you believe to be relevant.”

“Yes, of course. I will try to get things in their proper order. I have been robbed, Mr Swann. My house was broken into last week and my most valuable possession was stolen”

“Just that, or was anything else taken?”

“A few less treasured things, but I am chiefly concerned about the main one.”

“What was it?”

“An item that is unique. It is a globe of the world, made in 1816 by a Viennese goldsmith named Wilhelm Schiffer. You may recall that the map of Europe was redrawn a year earlier as a result of the Congress of Vienna, and this work was created to mark that event. Schiffer died two years after completing it. He did not produce anything else of significance, but the globe is a masterpiece.”

“Please describe it fully.”

“It is rather less than a foot in height and is mounted on a flat round stand. The two parts are connected by a semicircular band of gold, which curves halfway around the globe and goes through its poles. The axis is tilted to the same degree as that of our planet. The work is not solid gold. It was created in two hemispheres, north and south, and is very heavy because the metal is quite thick. The continents are made from flat plates of the finest silver, fashioned accurately and fixed in their true places on the surface. Many of the world’s great cities are marked by emeralds.”

Swann nodded. “It sounds exquisite.”

“It is the most beautiful article I have ever seen, so you can imagine how distraught I am.”

“I can indeed. Now, was the globe on display when it was taken?”

“No. I had gone to bed and before doing so I always lock it away in a cupboard, as I do not have a safe.”

“I see. So, you have invoked the services of our constabulary and have informed the insurance company.”

“Yes, but I know that the police are overworked and I fear that a junior officer might be assigned to my case and that it may not get the attention it deserves. As for the insurance company, you are probably aware that the idea of offering policies covering burglary is a new one. The firm I am dealing with, the Leeds & District Assurance Company, is first in the field in this area, though I understand the Yorkshire General will not be far behind. This kind of indemnity has been available for only four months and my claim is the first the L&D has handled. Moreover, my cover is the highest the company will offer, though it falls far short of the globe’s value.”

“How did you come by this item?”

“Unexpectedly. I dabble in the field of antiques and have several other pieces of modest value, but this was the first time I really plunged. I had attended an afternoon function at the Queens Hotel and was still in the lounge when I got into conversation with a man from London. He was about to return home after an abortive attempt to conclude a deal. It came out in conversation that he was a businessman. His firm was in difficulty and he was trying to raise money to keep it going. The only thing he owned of sufficient value to do that was the globe, which he had with him. He had brought it in the hope of selling it, but the other party made some excuse about an unforeseen last-minute expense and declined to proceed. I viewed the object, fell in love with it and bought it.”

“Swann began to fill his pipe. “Do you mind telling me how much you paid for it?”

“I hope you will forgive me for not being too forthcoming about my financial affairs. Let me just say that I paid a sum well up in the five-figure range, far in excess of the insurance cover of ten thousand pounds I was able to obtain. Still the policy protected me to the greatest extent possible.”

“I understand. Now, two questions spring to my mind immediately. Who was the man you bought from and does the globe have a recorded history, a provenance as the professionals say.”

Gordon shrugged. “The seller desired to remain anonymous and I respected his wish. I had no doubt that I had been given the opportunity of a lifetime and did not intend to let it slip away. As to the globe’s earlier life, all I can tell you is that the man who sold it to me said that it had had two owners before him and that it had been in his possession for nine years.”

Swann rubbed his chin. “That puzzles me,” he said. “I am no expert in such matters but I would have thought that there should be some written record of an article of that kind.”

“I can’t help you there, Mr Swann. I saw a chance to make a great acquisition and felt I had to act there and then. I would say that the intrinsic worth of an object is its own provenance. I was never in doubt that I had obtained something that would appreciate a great deal in value with the passage of time. Now it has been taken from me.”

“Did the insurance people view it?”

“Of course. As it happened the company had recently employed an agent who by pure coincidence was highly qualified to appraise works of art. He came to see me along with the manager and said he was sure that the piece was one of a kind and undoubtedly worth far more than the amount of cover the policy offered.”

“Have you been visited by the police?”

“Yes, but to no avail. An officer checked for fingerprints but found only mine. I live alone.”

Swann gave a thin smile. “Even if other prints had been found, that would hardly have helped. No case in this country has yet been resolved by such evidence, though the technique is promising. Now, have you told me everything you regard as significant?”

“Yes.”

“Very well. I will look into the matter and let you know what I make of it. I hope to have something to report in a day or two. Meanwhile, it would be as well if you were to stay at home as much as you can, in case I need anything more from you.”

“Have no fear. I shall not go out until I hear from you.”

“Good. I must ask you to excuse me now, as I need to do a little preparatory work before my next caller arrives. Oh, one final point occurs to me. You said that you met the man who sold you the globe after you had been to a function at the Queens Hotel. When was that?”

“It was the seventh of October last year. I remember that well, as it was the day before my birthday.”

“Thank you. Goodbye.”

After Gordon left, Swann spent a few minutes thinking about what he had just heard, then decided to let the details run around in the back of his mind while he had a further spell at the piano before going out for lunch. He had managed only ten minutes trying to improve his playing of a Chopin waltz when he had another visitor, this time Inspector Crabtree of the local constabulary. The officer was a frequent guest in Swann’s home and was always well received. The two men sat facing one another by the fire. Crabtree filled his pipe and accepted a glass of sherry. After a brief silence, Swann grinned. “Out with it, Inspector. What’s on your mind?”

“Oh, just a little point that might be more in your line than mine, Mr Swann. We’ve been asked to look into an unusual burglary, in which a very valuable globe of gold was stolen.”

Swann held up a hand. “Before you go on, I must tell you that we are on delicate ground here. I shall have to be careful, as there may be a question of conflict of interests.”

Crabtree nodded. “I am aware of that. You are speaking of Victor Gordon, and he has told me that he proposed to enlist your services. I appreciate that we probably have little scope for conversation at present, but for what it is worth, I can inform you that I haven’t yet seen a way to get to the bottom of this. Unless that globe turns up somewhere, I’m stumped. May I ask if you have accepted the case?”

“Yes, I have. However, there is something that strikes me as odd about it. I would not be surprised if we need to discuss it again as my inquiry proceeds. You will understand that I cannot say much at present, but I am giving Mr Gordon’s problem my full attention and perhaps I shall unearth something of interest.”

“That’s good enough for me. Now, as usual I have plenty to do, so I must get on my way.”

While taking his late lunch, Swann had made up his mind to act without delay. First, he called at the telegraph office and sent off a wire to the Continent. Next, he went to the headquarters of the Leeds & District Assurance Company in the city centre. His prestige gave him immediate access to the manager, Eric Hadley, who expressed his relief that ‘the foremost detective in Yorkshire and far beyond’ was handling Gordon’s case.

Hadley confirmed that his company had only recently begun to offer burglary insurance, that it was first in the field locally, and that the theft of the golden globe had appalled him and his staff. Such a loss in so embryonic a venture might cause the firm to reconsider its involvement in that kind of cover. Three new agents had been engaged in anticipation of increased business. Now the whole enterprise looked questionable.

Swann asked about the new employees and was told that all three had come with excellent references. One in particular had been a most fortuitous find, as he had been trained to assess artefacts of high value. At that point, Hadley leaned forward and lowered his voice. “I don’t like to comment about anyone’s physical characteristics, but this man, Jonathan Wardle, is a little unusual in some ways. He has what I believe is called a wandering eye. I think the medical term is strabismus. Apparently he is to have treatment for the condition and he seems confident there will be a successful outcome. Also, he fidgets continuously and he has an extraordinarily pale face. I thought at first that his appearance might tell against him in dealing with our clientele, but so far his results have been good enough.”

“Do your agents work fixed hours, or are they free to use their time as they see fit?”

“The only rigid condition is that they are all required to gather here at four-thirty every weekday afternoon for a briefing. It is then that they report what they have done during the day and are given leads to enable them to make further calls on prospective customers. Normally they leave the office after about an hour. Apart from that, they arrange their days to what they see as best effect.”

“I understand. How many people do you employ in total?”

“Excluding me, there are ten in the office here and we have eight representatives in the field.”

“Do you keep files on them?”

Hadley chuckled. “One folder covers all of them. It contains the correspondence, including references, leading to their engagement. My secretary keeps it.”

“I see. Might I have a glance at it as I leave?”

“By all means.”

“Thank you. I think I may as well go now. The sooner I get on with my inquiry, the better.”

Hadley accompanied Swann to the outer office, introduced him to the secretary, asked her to produce the staff folder then returned to his own workplace. Swann spent five minutes leafing through the papers, made a brief note, thanked the lady and left. He had already decided on his course of action, but it was approaching four o’clock and most of what he wanted to do would have to wait until the following day. However, he had time for two more small tasks.

The firm of Heptenstall & Sons, auctioneers, valuers and art dealers was situated in East Parade, a stone’s throw from Swann’s rooms. Three years earlier, he had been instrumental in the recovery of a painting, stolen from the company’s storeroom and believed lost for good, so he could count on a warm reception. The head of the business, Josiah Heptenstall, extended a cordial welcome. After an exchange of pleasantries, Swann explained the Gordon case.

Heptenstall, widely regarded as the leading man in his line of business in Leeds, was a tall, slim man, sixty-two years of age, with a full head of iron-grey hair. He was always impeccably dressed and looked perfectly suited to his role in life. After listening to what Swann had to say, he shook his head. “I’ve never heard of the object you describe,” he said. “However, I do have contacts in most of the towns and cities in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and I certainly owe you a favour. I imagine you are in a hurry to produce a result, so I’ll wire the firms I think most likely to know something and will emphasise that there is some urgency. If anyone can help, I should know by tomorrow morning at the latest.”

Swann left Heptenstall at close to five o’clock, which was just the right time for him to do his last job that day. He walked back to the office of the Leeds & District Assurance Company and stood diagonally opposite the entrance, watching the comings and goings. At a little after five-thirty, a group of men emerged. Within ten seconds, Swann saw what he had expected to see. Satisfied with his afternoon’s work, he returned home to smoke a pipe and relax before going out for his evening meal.

With a busy day ahead on the Wednesday, Rupert Swann breakfasted early and by nine o’clock he was on his way to Bradford by train. The trip took less than half an hour, and his stay in the city was brief but productive. By ten minutes to eleven, he was back in Leeds and, staying with rail transport, he took the next train to Harrogate. The journey was not much longer than the earlier one and the result was equally fruitful. Swann spent a little more time in the spa town than in Bradford, but at two-fifteen he was back in Leeds. He paid a very brief visit to the Queens Hotel and was then content that he had done all he could do, pending receipt of further information.

On leaving the hotel, Swann headed for one of his regular haunts, Whitelocks First City Luncheon Bar, where he had a pint of beer and a hearty beef sandwich. At shortly after three, he returned to his rooms and used what remained of the afternoon and early evening alternately playing the piano and smoking one or other of his seven fine briar pipes. He was impatient for news that would bring his case to a conclusion, but could only wait.

Not having heard from either of the two sources of which he had hopes, Swann took the short walk to Powolny’s restaurant, where he chatted for a while with the owner before dawdling over a dinner of poached salmon, boiled potatoes and salad. He then strolled the half-mile or so to his club in Cookridge Street, where there were no Victor Gordons to tax him with their problems. Here, all was old oak, mahogany, wine-red carpets and armchairs of brown leather, worn shiny by twelve decades of the city’s gentlemen.

The club had a billiard room and a library-cum-reading room with three thousand books and a wide range of the latest newspapers and magazines. It was to the latter that Swann went, after ordering a brandy to be brought to him. He selected a volume of famous chess games and played through, from a combination of the diagrams and his mind’s eye, two great brilliancies which had enthralled players for over forty years. The German master, Adolf Anderssen had demonstrated his wizardry on both occasions, playing the games in quick succession, in London and Berlin respectively. The first was dubbed ‘The Immortal’, the second ‘The Evergreen’. Having entertained himself with them until ten-thirty, Swann went back to his rooms.

It was almost noon on the Thursday before the Gordon case began to move again, then things happened quickly. First, Swann received a reply to his wire to the Continent. Half an hour later, a knock at the door announced the arrival of Josiah Heptenstall. He entered, beaming. “Good day to you, Rupert,” he said. “I bring news.”

“And a very good day to you too, Josiah. Please take a seat and unburden yourself.”

“Thank you. I must be brief, as I have another engagement shortly.” The auctioneer seated himself by the fire, facing Swann. “After you left me on Tuesday, I sent telegrams to nine companies in my line of work, asking whether they could supply any information about the matter you mentioned. I had negative responses from eight of them, but you will be interested to learn what I heard from George Goodwin & Sons of Manchester. The principal, Goodwin Senior, is an old acquaintance of mine. First he sent a return telegram, then he wrote me a letter. It was brought to me about an hour ago by one of his sons, who came by train, and is now in my office, waiting for me to take him to luncheon.”

Swann laughed. “Your Lancashire colleague certainly doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet.”

“No, he does not. I think the best thing I can do is give you the letter and let you read it yourself. Here it is.”

Swann took the sheet of foolscap, opened it and read:

Dear Josiah,

Thank you for your wire. It was good to hear from you. I hope that you and your wife are well and that we shall meet again soon. With regard to the globe about which you inquired, I can give you some information which I hope will be helpful.

Last September, we received an item answering roughly the description you gave. However, it had virtually no intrinsic value. It was constructed about twenty years ago by two young men who were studying at the Institute of Metallurgy here in Manchester. They produced it during one of the long summer holidays and presented it to their tutor as a mark of their respect for him. He kept it for the rest of his life. When he died last year, his widow cleared out some of his effects and brought a number of them to us, asking that they be auctioned. We disposed of them shortly afterwards in one of our weekly sales of bric-a-brac. The piece in question was made of brass and tin, with small pieces of coloured glass representing certain great cities. It was part-filled with lead, to simulate the weight of gold, though I was given to understand that the makers had not intended to deceive anyone with it.

I was at first minded to include the globe in an array of oddments, but finally decided to offer it as a separate lot. It fetched four pounds, as you will see from the enclosed paper. That is all I can tell you about the item, and as you seem to be anxious to accommodate your friend in Leeds, I am arranging for my son, Henry, to bring you this letter by the early train tomorrow morning.

I trust that I have been of some assistance to you. Please accept my best wishes and convey them to Mrs. Heptenstall.

Kind regards, George

Swann separated the letter from its attachment and placed both papers on the low fireside table, where he had already deposited the wire he had received earlier. He gave Heptenstall a broad smile. “Thank you very much, Josiah. You have provided me with exactly what I needed and I shall let you know how this business ends.”

“I look forward to hearing from you. Now I must go and attend to young Goodwin.”

Rupert Swann’s investigation was complete. He immediately walked to the telegraph office, sent three telegrams, then called at Whitelock’s Bar for sandwiches and beer. At two-thirty he was back in his rooms.

The case came rapidly to its conclusion. At four o’clock, Swann received a group of three visitors, summoned by his first two telegrams. He spent no more than ten minutes with them. The main event began at four-thirty, when Victor Gordon arrived in response to Swann’s third wire. Accepting a waved invitation, he seated himself by the hearth. “I assume you have something to report,” he said.

“Yes, I have.” Swann sat facing his visitor, leaned back and assumed his didactic pose, eyes staring at a point on the wall behind Gordon’s head, chin resting on the tips of steepled fingers. “Poetry is not my strong point,” he said, “but I believe the words ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive’ were given to us by Walter Scott.” Oblivious of his client’s baffled look, he went on: “It has been said that when a man sets out to commit a murder, there are perhaps ten mistakes he might make and that if he avoids half of them, his performance is better than average. I believe much the same can be said of lesser crimes.”

The mystified Gordon broke in. “You are being very enigmatic, Mr Swann. “I don’t see the point of your remarks.”

“Bear with me. You made several blunders in the course of this little escapade. There are three papers on the table between us. The first is a reply to a wire I sent to the Rathaus – that is the town hall – in Vienna. The public administrators there are usually quite meticulous in keeping records, especially regarding their citizens. The wire is in German. It tells me that in response to my inquiry, the relevant department of the city’s administration states that there was never a Viennese goldsmith named Wilhelm Schiffer, and that if there had been, the authorities would have known of him. So, the man you say sold you the globe was either misinformed or lying to you, or you were misled or have lied to me.”

Gordon’s face reddened as he blustered: “I passed on to you what I had been told. You can hardly hold that against me.”

Swann ignored the comment. “You said you met this man at a function in the Queens Hotel on the seventh of October last year. There was no such event there on that date, so you made a blunder in embellishing your story as you did.” He held up a hand to silence another budding protestation from Gordon. “Let me pass on to your choice of a confederate in this undertaking. I cannot commend your judgement there. From the description given to me by Mr Hadley of the insurance company, I had my suspicions about the new employee, Jonathan Wardle. I saw him leaving the company’s office and noted that he was none other than Ben Chapman. He has an impressive list of crimes to his name. I don’t know how you encountered him but that does not matter at present. By the way, Hadley remarked on the man’s pale face. That is known as prison pallor. He has spent a lot of time behind bars, including a spell that ended quite recently.”

Gordon was still inclined to boldness. “I have no idea what you are talking about, Mr Swann,” he said. “Clearly I was in error in coming to you. I should have engaged a competent detective.”

Swann grimaced. “Please do not pretend to be obtuse. That doesn’t become you. I am aware that Chapman does not have the wit to conceive an adventure of this kind. You did the thinking, such as it was. I examined the insurance company’s personnel records and noted that Chapman, or Wardle if you prefer the alias, produced references from a supposed importer of toys, based in Bradford, and from a rather grandly named College of Fine Arts in Harrogate. Neither of those bodies exists. The Bradford address is a newsagent’s shop. Like some other such places, it acts as a receiver of mail for various people, so it suited your purpose because you were able to collect Mr Hadley’s letter of inquiry. As for the Harrogate premises, the address is an unoccupied private house, which you rented from the estate agent, Watkins, for a month, merely to pick up any communications sent there by the insurance people.”

Gordon’s face now bore a resigned look, but his denial was not quite finished. “I still do not understand you, Mr Swann. This rambling may be very imaginative, but you cannot connect it with me.”

“Your dissembling is pointless, sir. Let us pass on to the globe itself. The other two papers on the table here relate to it. The larger one you may read for yourself.” It was the letter from George Goodwin & Sons of Manchester, to Josiah Heptenstall, and as soon as Gordon saw the headed notepaper, his face reddened. He read the letter and threw it back onto the table, saying nothing.

Swann smiled. “You bought the item from Goodwin’s, then at some later date you saw the chance to execute what you thought would be a brilliant deception, so you recruited Ben Chapman and set up this scheme. You were too elaborate in consulting me, when you could have left the case in the hands of the police. As you indicated, the officers of the official force have many calls upon their time and their resources to deal with a matter like this are limited. They are generalists, whereas I am a specialist. You must have thought less of my ability than you implied when you first came here.”

Gordon was trying hard to recover some composure. “Assuming your fatuous investigation had any substance,” he said, “you have no proof that I bought the globe.”

“Oh yes, I have.”

“What proof? If I had been as devious as you make out, I certainly would not have paid for the piece by cheque, as that would have required my signature.”

Swann laughed. “You were indeed clever enough to pay cash. However, you seem to have forgotten that it is Goodwin’s custom to ask people to sign receipts confirming that they have taken possession of anything they buy. The smaller paper on the table is their copy of the one they presented to you. Obviously, you signed it. What is more natural than that? One usually does such a thing without any conscious thought.

Victor Gordon was greatly deflated, but he tried another tack. “You seem to be forgetting something, Mr Swann,” he said. “I am your client and as such I have the right to demand that what passes between us remains confidential.”

Swann shook his head. “No, Mr Gordon. When my client is on the wrong side of the law, I consider myself absolved from confidentiality.”

Gordon’s wiles were not totally exhausted. “I’m sorry to hear that. However, if the matter gets any further airing, I shall deny that this conversation took place, and shall contend that someone forged my signature on that receipt.”

“There are many handwriting experts who would testify that the signature is not a forgery.”

The devious Gordon was nothing if not resourceful. “Well, Mr Swann,” he said, “you have been busy. Now, please allow me to outline a purely hypothetical situation. Let us envisage a man about to come into a large sum of money, say ten thousand pounds, and let us suppose that all that stood between him and that fortune were the scruples of another man, who intended to expose him. Do you think that the second man might be influenced by the prospect of being offered half of the sum concerned?”

“Dear me, Mr Gordon, bribery now, is it? Well, I have no intention of being a party to your nefarious activities. I am not au fait with the precise terminology of our legal lexicon, but I imagine you are facing a number of charges, including attempted fraud, seeking to obtain money by false pretences, and maybe other things. Quite a string, I fancy. You are in serious trouble.”

With a grim face, Gordon made his last throw of the dice. “I regret that you cannot see your way reaching an accommodation with me, Mr Swann. As I intimated earlier, I hired you simply to placate the insurance company, but you have performed with more ingenuity than I had anticipated. I am now at the end of my tether, which is unfortunate for you.” He had not removed his topcoat on arrival. Now he drew from one its capacious pockets a revolver. Pointing it at Swann, he went on: “Ten thousand pounds is a great deal of money. Most working people earn much less than that in a lifetime. I really cannot permit you to obstruct me, so I seem to have no choice but to put an end to your existence.”

Swann seemed curiously unperturbed. “My word, I confess that I misjudged you. I really did not think you were sufficiently desperate to go so far.”

“Well, I’m pleased to know that I am not the only one who has made mistakes in this affair. Now, these houses are well constructed, so I don’t think a shot would be heard by anyone outside this room. Furthermore, conveniently for my purpose, the doctor who has his practice downstairs is out on his afternoon rounds is not due back until six-thirty. I noted that from a card on his door. Also, I took the precaution of coming up here without alerting your housekeeper, who seems to be hard of hearing anyway. In short, we are alone and when I leave, there will be no trace of my visit.”

Swann was still unruffled. “Ah, another little slip, Mr Gordon. The telegraph office has a record of my wire asking you to come.”

Gordon sniggered. “There is no reason for the police or anyone else to look into that point, and even if somebody were to do so, I would simply assert that I was indisposed and unable to respond to your message. No, Mr Swann, this is just between the two of us. There are no witnesses.”

“Oh, witnesses! I had almost forgotten. Inspector!”

“The bedroom door, which had been slightly ajar, opened wide and Swann’s three earlier visitors emerged. Inspector Jonas Crabtree came first, then a burly constable and finally Eric Hadley of the insurance company. Without an instant’s hesitation, the unarmed Crabtree strode across to Gordon and held out a hand. “Give me that gun,” he snapped. “You cannot overcome all of us.” As though mesmerised by the abrupt turn of events, Gordon meekly surrendered his weapon. “Thank you,” said Crabtree. “Victor Gordon, you are under arrest.”

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