It's rather surprising how much a mattress can cost. Well, to be fair I didn't want just any old moldy thing. After all, this was for Alice.
I went to a couple of murky shops and eventually found something I could afford, but which didn't look like you could get cholera from it.
The mattress was rather thin but this only meant I could roll it up and carry it more easily. I got a blanket as well after some discussion.
The sun was setting when I strolled down the street towards my office. I got to the front door and as agreed the door was open. I stepped inside and locked the door after me.
I couldn't wait to see her face, so I almost jumped up the stairs. I opened the door to her apartment.
“Alice! Alice! Come and see!”
I walked around the apartment but I couldn't find her. I put the mattress down on the floor. Her suitcases stood in the corner and upon one lay a note.
I picked it up and read.Mr. Wakefield.
If you value the life of the young lady
in our possession, you will agree to meet us at
Piccadilly Circus by the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain
at midnight tonight. Come alone and unarmed
and the girl will remain in one piece.
I felt my knees give way and I fell to the floor. I felt a stinging in my chest and water flowing from my eyes. It was my fault. I knew there was a risk of them coming here. I knew. How could I have forgotten so easily? And now Alice had been taken. What could I do? I had to get her back safely. Otherwise I could not live with myself.
I crawled to her suitcases and opened one of them. I picked up the thing lying on top, which was a white blouse, and held it against my face. I could smell her in it. I imagined she was there with me because I wanted her to be so badly.
I imagined the colour of her fire-red hair. It was fire. I could feel it. I could feel I was burning with the flame of anger.
I let the blouse fall back into the suitcase and got up. I locked the door behind me and entered the office. I went through the closets and the desk, but I didn't find what I was looking for. I didn't care whether or not they said 'come unarmed'. Mr Lacey would kill me anyway and so I had no guarantee of them letting Alice go at all. Dead men cannot see.
I suddenly realized how much the floor was creaking and removed the rug. The floorboard was loose but I needed to use some pencils to remove it since my fingernails were not long enough. Below the the floor was something wrapped in cloth. I unwrapped it to find exactly what I had been looking for: My fathers Webley Mk IV which he told me he had gotten when he fought in the Boer War.
He had left it behind along with most of his life when we had all left in 1917. I remembered especially because one of my father's friends had a heated discussion with him about abandoning one's country in wartime and then leaving your weapons behind. It wasn't until I became older that I realized just how dangerous my father's decision had been. In fact it was quite extraordinary that we arrived safe and sound. This was why I never asked him about our move or my mother's death. Whatever it was he was running from, it had to be terrible.
I picked up the weapon and locked at it for a moment. I took a pack of ammunition from the hole and loaded it before I fired the gun into the ceiling. Shocked by the sound I fell backwards, but I had to see whether the gun would still fire.
It was some way to Piccadilly Circus, so I left at once.
There was more than hour until midnight when I arrived at Piccadilly Circus. I decided not walk to the fountain until I had to. I lit a cigarette and walked down Regent Street. I saw a posh couple and a young lady coming out from The Café Royal. They were about to get into a car. It appeared to be two parents and their daughter and my heart ached for a moment as my thoughts went to my sister.
How old was Alice? Eighteen. It was strange to imagine that she was only five years years older than Karen.
I had continued walking in my own thought when I suddenly collided with the young lady. She fell and by sheer reflex I grabbed her arms and prevented her from hitting the sidewalk. As I pulled her to her feet and cane hit me hard over the shoulders.
“Will you get your hands of my daughter this instant, you charlatan!”
I let her go and only barely managed to duck the cane as it was swung again. A man came running out of The Café Royal.
“Lord Cinder! Was is going on? Do you need assistance!?”
“Cinder,” I mumbled and realized that I new this name. Cinder was the name of Alice's former employers.
“What has the world come to when young men have nothing better to do than knocking over defenseless girls in the street?” yelled Lord Cinder.
His wife put her arm around their daughter who looked perfectly well if only a little confused.
“I'm sorry, My Lord! I really didn't see...” I began.
“Well, maybe some time in a cell would teach you to look where you're going, brute!”
Lord Cinder's rage was rather curious to me as he was paying absolutely no attention to his daughter and her wellbeing and appeared far more interested in asserting his disgust for me.
The man from the restaurant tried to calm him down.
“My Lord, I am sure the man meant no harm. Her Ladyship is well. This may all be a misunderstanding.”
?!” roared Lord Cinder.
“Really, August, should we not take poor little Abigale home?” said his wife with a tiny voice.
Lord Cinder advanced towards me as if he was going to throw me in jail himself.
“Papa, I'm really fine! It was my fault too! Just standing in the middle of the sidewalk! Can't we go home?”
Lady Abigale got between us. She hugged him and looked up at him like a little girl asking for a pony.
“Alright, Alright. Get in the car, child!”
“Thank you,” said Lady Abigale and smiled at him.
The Lord growled slightly and they got into the car. Through the window Lady Abigale winked at me and I smiled back.
I turned to see the other man staring at me. His eyes were narrow.
“I'll just get going now. Shouldn't you be working?” I said and patted him on the shoulder before walking back to the square.
I was born middle class. I had never been poor, but I had never been rich. I would never understand the arrogance of aristocracy. 'I have better life than you, so therefore I'm going to hate you?
' It didn't make sense. People from my class had done well with the industrialism. The were rich and had worked to get there. Lord Cinder had probably never worked a day in his life.
I had plenty of time to think on this subject. It felt like an eternity until my pocket watch showed me it was midnight. I looked towards the fountain but I didn't see any new figures there. I assumed they were waiting for me to show up. They couldn't kill me here for sure. There were not as many people as in the day time, but enough that it would make a scene.
I threw my cigarette on the ground and stepped on it before venturing towards the fountain. Once there, I lit another cigarette and tried to act natural.
Suddenly I realized that someone was standing beside me.
Through the corner of my eye I could only see that the person was a whole head smaller than me and wore a coat and hat. Then I heard a woman's voice.
“Here is a scarf. Take it. Hide the weapon you are carrying in it and pass it to me.”
“What makes you think...” I began.
“What makes you think we are stupid?” she answered.
Reluctantly I took the scarf. Wrapping the gun was harder than it seemed without alerting anyone around us. I managed and gave it to her with shaking hands.
“Where is Alice?” I whispered.
“Follow me,” she said.
Then she turned and walked towards Coventry Street. I could hear the sound of her heels and I couldn't figure out how on earth she managed to walk up to me without me noticing.
I followed her at a distance but when she got to the beginning of the street she stopped a waved me closer. I walked up to her and she continued to walk until we came to Café de Paris. We walked through the doors and she spoke a few words with the man receiving us. What it was I could not tell.
He however showed us inside and took us to a table in the corner. On the stage a dance number was being performed.
The woman in front of me removed her hat and coat. She was very well dressed in a black silk dress and long gloves. Her hair was dark brown and curled in large soft ringlets. Her eyes were the brightest green I've ever seen and her face soft. She wore a dark red lipstick and her eyes were dramatically enhanced with dark makeup. She took a cigarette out of her purse.
“Got any light?” she said smilingly.
I lit her cigarette reluctantly while studying her facial expression.
“You can tell Mr. Lacey that he needs to let her go immediately. She has nothing whatsoever to do with this!”
The woman slowly exhaled smoke and looked at me like she was bored.
“Mr. Wakefield. I am only going to ask you once. What is your connection with Celio Lacey?”
“Who?” I replied.
“Mr. Wakefield. This is not a joking matter,” she said.
“Aren't you here about Andre? I don't know any Celio!”
“Why would I be here about Andre? Mr. Wakefield, I am warning you. The people I represent are not afraid to harm the girl if you do not come clean. What is you connection with Celio Lacey?”
“So you're not sent by William Lacey?” I asked.
“I don't understand this at all, Miss. I don't work for any Lacey. In fact I suspect that they are all out to kill me.”
“Well, that is surely an interesting turn. Tell me,” said the woman.
“How do I know I can thrust you? You took Alice!”
“You can't. But if you wish to see Alice again you will tell me the truth.”
I didn't know what to do but I figured I had nothing to lose. I told her about my case – for Alice's sake. Every little detail for every time I started to lie or avoid a subject the stared at me in the most unnerving manner as if she could see right through me.
“Alright, Mr. Wakefield. I will believe you. You have been most helpful.”
She got up to leave, but I grabbed her arm.
“Where's Alice? You promised me Alice!”
“Be careful Mr. Wakefield. Unless you want to lose the arm I suggest you remove it.”
“You are alone.”
“Just because you cannot see it, doesn't mean it's not there, Mr. Wakefield.”
“You have to help me. Who are you? Where is Alice? How was this helpful?”
She sat back down.
“If you must, you may call me Angel. Your secretary will be released tonight.”
She paused and for a moment I could see her thinking really intensely about something.
“Will you allow me to make a phone call, sir? I will need to ask for permission if I am to clarify anything.”
I nodded and she got up and left for the foyer.
Much to my surprise, she actually returned and sat down.
“Mr. Wakefield. Since you have no further use to us otherwise suggest that you assist in return for the information you seek.”
“I have to work for you?”
“It will hardly be of any inconvenience as we want similar things. Justice.”
“William Lacey has a love for the exotic as I'm sure you would have noticed. He married a Spanish woman for the same reason, but these days Aurelia Lacey is lying in her chambers only barely alive. And why? Heartbreak they say. Because she was never enough for him. He needed his photographs and prostitutes. It is a stupid woman who marries such a man and expects him to change.
I cannot say that we are happy to know that you killed Andre, but he was the most promising of his sons. If only he had not been so loyal we could have made something out of him. Celio, his older brother, came to us about three weeks ago. He had found himself some girl and they wished to marry. Celio, who loves his mother dearly, had always been disgusted by his father and they had argued. Therefore Lacey had refused to give Celio and his bride any money for the wedding and starting their life together. He had acquired some money and wished to double them with gambling.
“So you do not work for the law?”
“No, Mr. Wakefield. We work for ourselves. Celio always bragged about his luck but this night he lost everything that night. In fact he owes us quite a sum. But I am now positive that those where the money he had stolen from Miss Johnson a few hours earlier.”
“Are you saying Celio Lacey killed Miss Johnson?”
“No. She was very much alive when he forced the suitcase from her upon her arrival at the place of exchange. He knew his fathers business. He knew the money would be delivered there. In his mind he was stealing from his father. But it just wasn't enough.”
“Then why did Miss Johnson have to die?” I asked.
“She may have have know something. But now I must really bid you farewell, Mr. Wakefield.”
“Goodnight, Miss Angel!” I said.
The walk home was long and wet for it had begun to rain. When I walked down the street towards the office I saw a figure shivering in the rain. I ran towards her and embraced her.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/novels/the-wakefield-cases-the-licentious-6.aspx">The Wakefield Cases; The Licentious Life Of Mr. Lacey, Part 7</a>