It was late, the rain coming down hard, when the man hurried through the main door of Scotland Yard and came to an abrupt halt as he say the sergeant at the desk.
‘I must speak to an inspector at once,’ he said, his voice that of a gentleman though his clothes were torn and disheveled, his hat wet and filthy.
‘If you’ll give me your name, sir,’ the sergeant said calmly, reaching for a sheet of paper, ‘and the particulars.’
‘I tell you, I need an inspector. Look at me, man! Do I look as if I have all night to answer your questions?’
‘All the same, sir – ‘
‘Damn it,’ the man said, and turned toward the door to one side of the desk.
‘Here!’ the sergeant exclaimed, rising. ‘You can’t go in there until you’ve told me your business.’
But the man was too quick for him and had reached the door just as it opened.
The tall, dark-haired man standing there looked from the agitated sergeant to the flushed and angry stranger.
‘Inspector Rutledge, sir? This man refuses to give his name and his reasons for coming to the Yard.’
‘Inspector?’ the intruder exclaimed, stepping back. ‘Thank God. I’ve just been robbed and beaten, and my daughter has been taken away by force. You must help me find her. Cecily is only twelve, she’ll be terrified by now. I can’t bear to think what she’s suffering.’
‘Where was this?’ Rutledge asked.
‘On Christopher Street. Number 10. We’d just returned home from dinner with friends – this was a little after ten o’clock – and as we stepped out of the cab, two men accosted us. Before I quite knew what was happening, they had knocked me to the ground, kicking my repeatedly while a third man, our erstwhile cabbie, had caught my daughter by the arms and forced her back into the waiting cab. I was only half conscious when the two attacking me went through my pockets but took nothing, not my watch, not even my purse. I couldn’t stop them, couldn’t even cry out. And then they leapt into the cab and it set off at a fast pace, disappearing around the next corner before I managed to get to my feet and attempted to go after them.’
Rutledge regarded him. ‘Your face isn’t damaged.’
‘No, they kicked me, I tell you. My ribs, my back, my shoulders.’
‘Have you seen a doctor? Mr. – ‘
“Dunstan. Charles Dunstan. In God’s name, how can I think about going to a doctor when Cecily is in the hands of those brutes? She’s in danger, I tell you, and you must help me find her. What do they want with her? I’m not a walthy man, I can’t pay a great ransom for her. That’s what frightens me. She’s a pretty child.’ He fumbled for his wallet and brought out a photograph of a young girl with long fair hair and a sweet smile.
Rutledge studied it and returned the photograph. ‘Why didn’t you find a constable, set the police after them straightaway, rather than take the time coming here?’
‘There was no constable in sight. Should I have lost time finding him? This is a Yard matter, surely, not the London police. I beg of you, do something.’
‘Did you see the faces of these three men? Or of the cabbie?’
‘No. He was just the cabbie, I paid him no heed until he leapt down to take my daughter. By that time, the other two had come out of the shadows before I could even turn and defend myself.’
‘Did they speak?’
‘No. The attack seemed all the worse for being carried out in complete silence.’
‘Why had you taken a cab in the first place?’
‘We’d had dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Lowery.’
‘I’ve known them a year or two. He’s a member of my club.’
He put a hand to his ribs as he coughed, and Rutledge said, ‘Here, sit down.’ Over Dunstan’s shoulder, Rutledge said to the Sergeant, “Send men to Number 10 Christopher Street, and three more to find this cabbie – or if possible, what became of the cab after the crime.’
Author: Charles Todd
Genre: Mystery & Detective
TALES is a collection of Bess Crawford and Ian Rutledge short stories published together for the first time from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd. Now published together for the first time: Charles Todd’s beloved short stories-”The Kidnapping,” “The Girl on the Beach,” “Cold Comfort,” and “The Maharani’s Pearls”-about intrepid Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge and dutiful battlefield nurse Bess Crawford. The vibrant tales transport readers from the homefront in Great Britain where the ominous clouds of war were ever-present during World War I to the bomb riddled the frontlines as soldiers desperately sought to gain ground again Germany with Lieutenant Ian Rutledge and finally to the exotic, dangerous India of Bess Crawford’s youth. Together they create an extraordinary glimpse into the treasured worlds of some of mystery’s most cherished characters.
Charles Todd is the New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother-and-son writing team, they live in Delaware and North Carolina.