Home Front Detective - Books 1, 2, 3 - Edward Marston - E-Book

Home Front Detective - Books 1, 2, 3 E-Book

Edward Marston

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Beschreibung

While thousands of Britons fight in the trenches, a severely depleted police force remains behind to keep the Home Front safe. Detective Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy are on hand to delve into the complex and sinister cases that arise. A Bespoke Murder: May 1915. In London the sinking of the Lusitania sparks an unprecedented wave of anti-German riots. Among the victims is the tailor Jacob Stein, found dead in his burnt-out shop. But is the murder really the result of wartime hysteria, or perhaps a more premeditated crime? An Instrument of Slaughter: Britain is on the brink of enforcing conscription. A conscientious objector is savagely killed after making a rousing speech at a meeting of the No-Conscription Fellowship, and some people even claim that a conchie deserves to die if he won't fight for King and Country. Marmion and Keedy will have to work fast to find the killer before more deaths occur... Five Dead Canaries: As the fighting on the Front Line continues, a new breed of women emerges to hold the Home Front together. The fiery-spirited munitionettes, or 'canaries', are easily recognisable with their chemically-stained yellow faces. One such raucous group gathers to celebrate a birthday, but the festivities are cut short when all but one are killed in a brutal explosion. The dark days of the war have left everyone on edge, suspicion is rife and there are no shortage of apparent motives for murder... 'A master storyteller. Edward Marston has tapped into a rich vein of inspiration. His Home Front Detective series promises a long run.' Daily Mail

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The Home Front DetectiveBooks 1, 2, 3

A BESPOKE MURDER INSTRUMENT OF SLAUGHTER FIVE DEAD CANARIES

EDWARD MARSTON

CONTENTS

TITLE PAGEA BESPOKE MURDERTITLE PAGEDEDICATIONCHAPTER ONECHAPTER TWOCHAPTER THREECHAPTER FOURCHAPTER FIVECHAPTER SIXCHAPTER SEVENCHAPTER EIGHTCHAPTER NINECHAPTER TENCHAPTER ELEVENCHAPTER TWELVECHAPTER THIRTEENCHAPTER FOURTEENCHAPTER FIFTEENCHAPTER SIXTEENCHAPTER SEVENTEENCHAPTER EIGHTEENCHAPTER NINETEENCHAPTER TWENTYINSTRUMENT OF SLAUGHTERTITLE PAGEDEDICATIONCHAPTER ONECHAPTER TWOCHAPTER THREECHAPTER FOURCHAPTER FIVECHAPTER SIXCHAPTER SEVENCHAPTER EIGHTCHAPTER NINECHAPTER TENCHAPTER ELEVENCHAPTER TWELVECHAPTER THIRTEENCHAPTER FOURTEENCHAPTER FIFTEENCHAPTER SIXTEENCHAPTER SEVENTEENCHAPTER EIGHTEENCHAPTER NINETEENCHAPTER TWENTYFIVE DEAD CANARIESTITLE PAGEDEDICATIONCHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE CHAPTER SIX CHAPTER SEVEN CHAPTER EIGHT CHAPTER NINE CHAPTER TEN CHAPTER ELEVEN CHAPTER TWELVE CHAPTER THIRTEEN CHAPTER FOURTEEN CHAPTER FIFTEEN CHAPTER SIXTEEN CHAPTER SEVENTEEN CHAPTER EIGHTEEN CHAPTER NINETEEN CHAPTER TWENTY CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE ABOUT THE AUTHORBY EDWARD MARSTONCOPYRIGHT

A Bespoke Murder

EDWARD MARSTON

To Doug Emmott friend, philosopher and tennis star who bears no relation whatsoever to his namesake in this book

1

CHAPTER ONE

They all knew the danger. When the Lusitania sailed from New York on 1st May 1915, passengers and crew alike understood the risk that they were taking. Spelt out with cold clarity by the German Embassy, the grim warning had been widely circulated.

Travellers intending to embark for the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or of any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters …

The threat did not deter 1,257 passengers from making the trip, though there was a measure of disquiet. The general feeling was 2that a ship capable of twenty-six knots was far too fast to be caught by any of the German U-boats lurking in British waters. Besides, it was argued, the Lusitania was essentially a passenger liner and therefore not a legitimate target for the enemy. The further they sailed across the Atlantic, the stronger that argument seemed. They were safe.

Also aboard the Lusitania on her fateful crossing was Irene Bayard, one of the hundreds of crew members. Irene had an unshakable faith in the Cunard vessel, having worked on her as a stewardess since her maiden voyage from Liverpool in September 1907. She was fiercely proud of being associated with a ship that had established so many startling precedents. RMS Lusitania was the first British four-stacker, the first to exceed 30,000 gross tons and the first to cross the Atlantic in under five days, securing the prized Blue Riband, the unofficial award for the fastest crossing. As such, she was the first quadruple-screw speed record-breaker and her achievements had made her the first choice for many passengers. That was a source of great satisfaction to Irene.

She was undisturbed by warnings from the Imperial German Government. Employed to look after passengers in first class, Irene was far too busy to worry about any notional dangers. It was hard work but so full of interest that – even though she was now in her late thirties – she never felt the slightest fatigue. Among those whose every request she met with smiling efficiency were a famous dancer, a celebrated American fashion designer and an ancient lady with two spaniels and an unspecified connection to the higher reaches of the British aristocracy. Each day brought new surprises. It was why Irene found working on the Lusitania such a pleasure. 3

Ernie Gill was less happy in his work. Taking a last pull on his cigarette, he flicked it overboard before turning to Irene.

‘Who says that Americans are generous?’ he moaned.

‘I’ve always found them so,’ said Irene.

‘That’s because you’ve never had to cut their hair. I spend at least ten hours a day on my feet and what do I get for it? Most of them won’t even give me a proper thank you, let alone a decent tip.’

‘What about that Belgian you told me about?’

‘Ah, yes,’ conceded Gill, brightening, ‘that was different. Now he was a real gentleman. Back home, he’s some kind of diplomat. I mean, he must be worried sick about what happened to his country when the Germans trampled all over it, yet he still remembers that a barber deserves a reward. He slipped me a sovereign.’

‘He was obviously pleased with his haircut.’

‘So he should be, Irene. I know my trade.’

Gill was a tall, skinny man in his forties with a sallow complexion. Though he and Irene had become friends, she was wary of his sudden bursts of intensity. He had offered her two proposals of marriage and, when inebriated, propositions of a different nature but she had turned him down politely each time. Since the death of her first husband, Irene had resolved never to marry again, least of all to a lustful barber with a fondness for strong drink. She was quite happy to limit the relationship to the occasional pleasant chat.

It was afternoon on 7th May and the ship was steaming along with unassailable confidence. After a steady and uneventful voyage, anxiety aboard had more or less evaporated. They were only ten miles from Queenstown, their first port of call. Like many of the passengers, Irene had come out on deck when land was first sighted. The barber had joined her. 4

‘Not long to go now,’ she observed. ‘Since that fog lifted, the Irish coast is clearly visible.’

‘Don’t talk to me about the Irish,’ said Gill, sharply. ‘They’re even worse than the Yanks. I’ve had three Micks in my chair and not a penny in tips from any of them. That Irish composer whistled his latest song at me as if he was doing me a favour. The only favour I want,’ he added with a sniff, ‘is silver coins in the palm of my hand.’

‘Can’t you think about anything but money?’

He grinned slyly. ‘I think about you sometimes, Irene.’

‘That’s enough of that,’ she said, firmly.

‘A man can still hope.’

He ran a covetous eye over her shapely figure.

‘You know my decision, Ernie, and it’s final.’

She was about to explain why when she was interrupted by a shout from the young lookout on the bow. Having seen the telltale shape hurtling towards them through the water, he bellowed into his megaphone.

‘Torpedoes coming on the starboard side!’

Before anyone could react to the news, the ship was struck with such violence that it was rocked from stem to stern. The explosion was deafening. Panic set in immediately. Passengers screamed, shouted and ran in all directions. Electricity had been knocked out, leaving cabins and public rooms in comparative darkness. Worst of all was the fact that the ship began to list dramatically, making several people lose their balance and fall over. On a command from Captain Turner, an SOS message was sent by the wireless operator but there was no chance of a rescue ship reaching them in time. The Lusitania was holed below the water. She was sinking fast. A second explosion caused her to keel over even more. In some parts of the 5ship, panic gave way to hysteria. This, they all feared, was it.

‘Blimey!’ cried Gill. ‘The Huns have got us.’

‘Think of the passengers,’ urged Irene. ‘Get them to put on their life jackets and move to the boat deck.’

‘We’re going down, Irene. It’s every man for himself.’

‘We have to do our duty.’

But he was no longer listening. Gill had charged off to collect what he could from his quarters. Irene snapped into action. Rushing to the nearest supply of life jackets, she put one on and grabbed several others so that she could hand them out to people she met on the way. When she got to the boat deck, she found it in complete disarray. There were twenty-two standard lifeboats but the ship was now at such a crazy angle that it was impossible to launch several of them. The other problem was that the ship was still maintaining an appreciable speed, making it difficult to control any lowering. Of the lifeboats that were actually launched, some met with instant disaster, tipping over and spilling their passengers into the sea or hitting the water with such a shuddering impact that people were hurled uncaringly over the side.

Irene did what she could, helping to fasten life jackets, spread reassurance and assist people into any boats that looked as if they might be lowered without mishap. She was pleased to see that Ernie Gill had also decided to do his duty now that he’d retrieved his few valuables. The noise was ear-splitting and the confusion almost overwhelming. The constant boom of the engines was amplified by the rhythmical gushing of the waves and the stentorian yells of the sailors handling the falls, the ropes that lowered the boats from the davits. Yet a strange calm was slowly starting to spread, born of bravery and an acceptance of the inevitable. People were making allowances 6for the most vulnerable, yielding up their places in a boat to the old and infirm. Frightened children were herded together and strapped into life jackets. Pet animals were gathered up and cuddled by their owners. Irene saw countless examples of courage and kindness from crew members as they went through survival drills they’d practised for such an emergency.

In addition to the lifeboats, there were twenty-six collapsible boats and they would play an important part in saving lives, but it was clear from the start that casualties would be extremely high. Several people had already perished, dashed against the side of the ship or killed by a falling lifeboat. Others had drowned in the cold unforgiving water. Seated in one of the last lifeboats, the titled old lady with the two spaniels was knocked overboard when a man who leapt from an upper deck landed directly on top of her. Yapping piteously, the dogs swam madly in small circles but their owner was already dead and they were doomed to join her in a watery grave.

Having gradually slowed, the Lusitania rolled over even more and was patently close to her end. In less than twenty minutes since she was hit, one of the largest and finest vessels ever to be built in a British shipyard began to founder. It was time to go.

‘Jump, Irene!’ shouted Gill, taking her by the arm.

‘I’m needed here, Ernie,’ she said.

‘There’s nothing else we can do. She’s going down.’

Irene felt the deck lurch. ‘You may be right.’

‘Jump while you can or you’ll be sucked down.’ He pulled her to the rail. ‘Try not to hit anyone.’

It was a tall order. Hundreds of heads were bobbing about in the sea and some of the collapsible boats were directly below Irene. She could see no inviting space. After snatching a farewell kiss from her, 7Gill jumped over the side while pinching his nose between a thumb and forefinger. Dozens of other people were abandoning the ship as well. Irene offered up a silent prayer for her salvation then joined the general exodus. As she fell through the air, she was overcome by a sense of righteous indignation at the enemy for daring to attack her beloved Lusitania. It was sacrilege.

She hit the sea hard and sank beneath the green waves before coming to the surface again and expelling a mouthful of salt water. All around her were people desperately trying to make their way past those who had already given up the fight. When a corpse floated helplessly against her, Irene saw that it was one of the mess stewards, his eyes gazing sightlessly up at the sky. She remembered what Gill had said. As she finally went down, he warned, the Lusitania would take anyone nearby deep into the vortex she had created. It would be a hideous way to die. That thought spurred Irene on to swim away as hard as she could, heading towards a collapsible boat she could see. Because it was being rowed away from her, however, Irene never reached the boat and its vague promise of safety. Instead, she kept flailing away with both arms until she barely had the strength to lift them. Her head was pounding, her lungs were on fire and her legs were no longer obeying her. All that she could do was to tread water.

A collective shout of horror went up and Irene turned to take a last glimpse of the ship on which she’d spent so many happy years. One end suddenly dipped in defeat, the other rose high, then the Lusitania dived below like a gigantic iron whale, sucking everyone within reach in her wake. Irene was still staring at the massive circle of foam when she collided with a wooden object and automatically grasped it. She was holding on to a large chair that gave her extra buoyancy. It had 8not arrived by accident. Using his other arm to swim, Ernie Gill had guided it over to her so that both of them had something to cling to. Shivering with cold, Irene was unable to express her thanks in words. Gill, however, was shaking with fury and the expletives came out of him like steam escaping from a kettle.

‘Bleeding Huns!’ he exclaimed. ‘I’ll fucking kill the bastards!’

9

CHAPTER TWO

Reaction was immediate and savage. As soon as news of the disaster reached Liverpool, mobs went on the rampage. Because the Lusitania was held in great affection in her home port, her sinking produced outrage, disbelief and an overpowering urge for revenge. Anyone with a German name became a target. Shops were looted, houses raided and people beaten up at random. The fact that they were naturalised British citizens was no protection. They were hunted indiscriminately. When one man protested that his family had lived in the country for generations, he was grabbed by the mob, stripped naked then tarred and feathered. Many policemen shared the feelings of the vigilantes and chose to turn a blind eye to their campaign of destruction. As the homes of German families were plundered then set alight, a pall of smoke hung over the city.

Liverpool was not alone in its fury. All over Britain, a German birth certificate was the mark of a victim. When it was learnt that over a 10thousand people on the Lusitania had lost their lives, the search for scapegoats was intensified. London offered an unlimited supply of them. In the East End, where many German immigrants had settled, vengeful gangs stormed along a trail of terror, meting out punishment with remorseless efficiency.

Nor was the West End immune to attack.

‘Why do they hate us so much?’ asked Ruth Stein.

‘They don’t hate us,’ replied her father. ‘They hate Germany for killing so many innocent people in the Lusitania. It’s a question of guilt by association, Ruth. We should have changed our name.’

‘Would that have made a difference, Father?’

He heaved a sigh. ‘Who knows? Your Uncle Herman changed his name yet they still wrecked his warehouse.’

‘It’s the way people look at me,’ she said. ‘It’s frightening.’

‘Try to ignore it.’

They were in the upstairs room at the front of the shop. Thanks to his skill as a bespoke tailor, he had one of the most flourishing businesses in Jermyn Street. He was a short, stout man in his late fifties with rounded shoulders. There was usually a benign smile on his face but it was now corrugated by concern. It was mid-evening and his daughter had joined him when the shop closed. Ruth was a slim, angular, pallid and undeniably plain girl of eighteen. Her father had been teaching her the rudiments of bookkeeping so that she could in time relieve her mother of that aspect of the business.

Ruth started. ‘What’s that noise?’

‘I heard nothing,’ he said.

‘It sounded like the roar of a crowd.’

‘Some lads have probably had too much to drink.’

‘It was a loud cheer.’ 11

‘Was it?’

Stein had heard it clearly but tried to show no alarm. If a gang was on the loose, he could only hope that his shop would be spared. He had put up two large posters in the window. One declared that he and his family were naturalised and in full support of Britain in its fight against Germany. On the other poster was an enlarged photo of his son, Daniel, wearing the uniform of the British regiment he’d volunteered to join only days after war was declared. Stein felt that his credentials were impeccable but he knew that a lawless mob would take no account of them. The thirst for revenge imposed blindness.

Ruth crossed to the window and peered nervously at the street.

‘I don’t see those policemen outside,’ she said.

‘They’ll still be nearby.’

‘What can two of them do against a big crowd?’

‘I trust that we’ll never have to find out.’

‘Are you afraid?’

‘We’re British citizens. We’ve nothing to be afraid about.’

‘Mother said it was too dangerous for me to come here.’

He smiled tolerantly. ‘Your mother worries too much.’

‘She wanted you to close the shop today.’

‘We had customers to serve, Ruth. We can’t turn people away.’

She recoiled from another burst of cheering.

‘The noise is getting louder – they’re coming this way.’

‘Stand away from the window,’ he said, trying to keep the anxiety out of his voice. ‘Let’s do some work.’

‘Look,’ she cried, pointing a finger. ‘You can see them now – dozens and dozens of them. They’re heading up the street.’

Stein looked over her shoulder. The crowd was large and volatile. Its jostling members were either inflamed or drunk or both simultaneously. 12They were chanting obscenities about Germans that made his daughter blush. He pulled her away. The baying got louder and louder until it was directly outside. Stein quivered in fear. The mob had not stopped in order to read the two posters in the window. The only thing that interested them was the name painted in large capitals above the shop – Jacob Stein.

‘German killer!’ yelled a voice. ‘Drive him out!’

Someone threw a brick at the window, smashing it into myriad shards. The first people to clamber into the shop grabbed the suits on display on the models, expensive garments that were well beyond the reach of low-paid working-class men. There were shouts of triumph as more looters climbed into the premises.

‘They’ve got in!’ cried Ruth in alarm.

‘Leave at once,’ ordered her father.

‘But they’re stealing your property.’

‘Go out by the back door. Run to the police station.’

‘Why not ring them?’

‘The telephone is downstairs. I’d never reach it. Off you go. I won’t be far behind.’ He scurried across to the safe and pulled out a bunch of keys. Aware that she was still there, he adopted a sterner tone. ‘Don’t just stand there – get out now! There’s no telling what they’ll do if they catch us still here. Run, girl – run! This is an emergency.’

Snatching up her handbag, Ruth did as she was told and ran down the stairs. From inside the shop, she heard the bell tinkle as the till was opened, followed by a groan of disappointment because it was empty. A far more ominous sound ensued. When Ruth heard the first crackle of fire, her blood froze. They were going to burn down the shop. She opened the back door and fled, intent on racing to the police station to raise the alarm. But she got no further than the end of the alley. Two 13scruffy young men were lounging against the wall, taking it in turns to swig from a flagon of beer. When they saw Ruth, they stood up to block her path.

‘Let me pass,’ she said, bravely.

‘What’s the hurry, darling?’ asked one of them.

‘They’ve broken into our shop.’

‘Who cares?’ He leered at her. ‘Give us a kiss.’

‘I have to get to the police station,’ she wailed.

‘All in good time,’ he said. ‘Come on – what about a farewell kiss for Gatty and me? We’re sailing off to France with our regiment tomorrow. This is our last chance for a bit of fun.’

‘Yes,’ added his friend. ‘One kiss is all we want.’

‘I’m first,’ said the other, putting the flagon down.

He lunged forward. When he touched her shoulder, Ruth lashed out on impulse, slapping him hard across the face. It stung him into a rage. He grabbed her with both hands.

‘We’ll have a lot more than a kiss for that,’ he warned, pulling her to the ground and knocking her hat off in the process. ‘Come on, Gatty – hold her down.’

His friend hesitated. ‘Don’t hurt her, Ol,’ he said, worriedly. ‘Let her go.’

‘Not until I’ve had my money’s worth. Now hold her down.’

The friend reluctantly held Ruth’s arms but she did not struggle. In a state of shock, she was unable to move. She could not believe what was happening to her. Her skirt was pulled up and her legs were forced apart. As the first man loomed over her, she could smell the beer on his breath. He was giggling wildly and undoing the buttons on his trousers. When he pulled them down, he was already aroused. Ruth was aghast. She didn’t hear the explosion in the shop or wonder if her father would 14escape in time. She forgot all about the fire. Held down by the sheer weight of her attacker, she was revolted by the taste of his lips when he took a first guzzled kiss. Fondling her breasts, he plunged his tongue into her mouth and rolled excitedly about on top of her.

‘That’s enough, Ol,’ said the friend. ‘Somebody will come.’

‘I haven’t even started yet.’

‘Be quick – we’ve got to go.’

‘She asked for this.’

Using a hand to widen her thighs still further, he manoeuvred into position then suddenly forced his erect penis into her. The stab of pain made Ruth cry out. He silenced her with another kiss and pumped away madly inside her. It was excruciating. She was pinned down and groped all over. She was being defiled, yet nobody came to her aid. Torn between agony and humiliation, all that she could do was to lie there and endure the ordeal. The only consolation was that it was short-lived. Panting heavily from his exertions, the man soon reached his climax, arching his back and letting out a long howl of pleasure. After a final thrust, he needed a minute to recover before pulling out of her with a grunt of satisfaction.

‘Your turn, Gatty,’ he said, rising to his feet and yanking up his trousers. ‘You’ll enjoy it – she’s nice and tight.’

‘We’ve got to go, Ol,’ urged his friend. ‘Leave her be.’

‘Don’t tell me you’re scared to do it.’

‘We don’t have time. That place is on fire.’

As if to emphasise the point, the wail of a fire engine could be heard approaching from the distance. The first man nodded his head then looked down at Ruth.

‘Goodbye, darling – remember me, won’t you?’

His friend tugged him away. ‘We’ve got to go.’ 15

The two of them skulked off, leaving Ruth still on the ground. She was too stunned even to move. She’d been raped less than twenty yards from the family shop. Pain, confusion, fear and shame assailed her. She was in despair. At that moment in time, Ruth felt as if she’d lost absolutely everything. She’d lost her virginity, her innocence, her respectability, her confidence, her hopes for the future and her peace of mind. Unbeknown to her, she’d suffered a further loss as well. Stretched out on the carpet in the room above his burning shop was her father. Jacob Stein had never lived to hear about the brutal assault on his only daughter. 16

17

CHAPTER THREE

‘I want you to take charge of this case, Inspector.’

‘Yes, Sir Edward,’ replied Harvey Marmion.

‘Initial reports say that the shop was broken into then set alight. Anything that was not stolen was destroyed in the fire. More worrying is the fact that a body has been seen in an upstairs room. The fire brigade has been unable to reach the corpse in order to identify it but the likelihood is that it belongs to the proprietor, Jacob Stein.’

‘I’ve walked past his shop many a time.’

‘You won’t be able to do that anymore,’ said the commissioner, sadly. ‘From what I can gather, the place will be burnt to a cinder.’

‘Was it another mob out of control?’

‘Yes, Inspector, and I won’t stand for it. I’m not having the capital city at the mercy of roving gangs with a grudge. Somebody must be caught and punished for this.’

‘That may be difficult, Sir Edward,’ warned Marmion. 18

The older man smiled. ‘Why do you think I chose you?’

They were in the commissioner’s office at New Scotland Yard, the red and white brick building in the Gothic style that was the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Force. Now in his mid sixties, Sir Edward Henry, the commissioner, should have retired but his patriotism had been stirred by the outbreak of war and he’d agreed to stay in a post he’d held for twelve productive years. Marmion had the greatest admiration for him, not least because the commissioner had survived an attempted assassination three years earlier and, though wounded by a bullet, had soon returned to work.

Harvey Marmion’s father had been less fortunate. A policeman renowned for his devotion to duty, Alfred Marmion had been shot dead while trying to arrest a burglar. The incident had persuaded his son to give up his job as a clerk in the civil service and join the police force. Marmion was a chunky man in his forties with a physique that belied his bookishness. Astute and tenacious, he had worked his way up to the rank of detective inspector and was tipped for even higher office. Though he was well groomed, he was not the smartest dresser. Indeed, he looked almost shabby beside the immaculately attired Sir Edward Henry. Marmion’s suit was crumpled and his tie was askew. His shirt collar had a smudge on it. Fortunately, the commissioner did not judge him on his appearance. He knew the man’s worth and rated him highly.

‘There’s really nothing else that I can tell you, Inspector.’

‘How many other shops have been attacked?’ asked Marmion.

‘Far too many,’ said Sir Edward.

‘Presumably, they were mostly in the East End.’

‘The West End had its casualties as well. Windows were smashed in 19Bond Street and in Savile Row. Luckily, the crowds were dispersed after a scuffle with our officers.’

‘But that was not the case in Jermyn Street.’

‘Alas, no – witnesses talk of a sudden burst of flame.’

‘That means an accelerant like petrol was used.’

‘If it was,’ said Sir Edward, seriously, ‘then I want the man who took it there. Arson is a heinous crime. I don’t care how upset people are by what happened to the Lusitania. It’s no excuse for the wanton destruction of private property.’

‘I agree.’

‘Get over there at once.’

‘I will,’ Marmion said. ‘I’ll take Sergeant Keedy with me.’

‘Good – I know I can rely on the pair of you.’

‘Thank you, Sir Edward.’

The commissioner walked to the door and opened it for his visitor. He put a hand on Marmion’s arm as he was about to leave.

‘This case has a special significance for me, Inspector.’

‘Oh? Why is that?’

‘Jacob Stein was my tailor.’

 

Ruth had no idea how she managed to drag herself to the police station in Vine Street. Nor could she remember what she actually said. She was still too stunned by the horror of her experience to speak with any articulation. When she mumbled something about her father’s shop, she was told that the fire brigade was already attending the incident. The station sergeant eyed her shrewdly.

‘Is there anything else to report, miss?’ he enquired.

‘No, no,’ she said, flushing at the memory of the assault and feeling her heart pound. ‘There’s nothing at all.’ 20

‘You seem distracted.’

‘I must get home.’

‘And where would that be?’

‘We live in Golders Green.’

‘Can you tell me the address?’

‘Well …’

Ruth’s mind was blank. She had to rack her brains for minutes before she could remember where she lived. Ordinarily, she would have been driven home by her father but he had been trapped in the burning building. Seeing her bewilderment, the sergeant took pity on her. He signalled to a uniformed constable.

‘PC Walters will see you safely home,’ he said.

‘I can manage,’ murmured Ruth.

‘I don’t think that you can, miss. You’re obviously distressed. You need help. Golders Green is on the Northern Line.’ His head jerked to the constable. ‘Take the young lady to her front door.’

‘Yes, Sergeant,’ said Walters.

‘See that no harm comes to her.’ He smiled sympathetically at Ruth. ‘There are strange characters about at this time of day. We don’t want you falling into the wrong hands, do we?’

It’s too late, said Ruth to herself.

‘Off you go, then, and thank you for coming.’

Walters extended an arm. ‘This way, miss.’

Ruth accepted his help with profound misgivings. Though he tried to strike up a conversation with her, she maintained a hurt silence. Having a policeman beside her on the tube train was a mixed blessing. It prevented anyone from bothering her but, at the same time, it raised the suspicion that she was under arrest. Ruth was embarrassed by some of the glances that were shot at her. When they alighted at Golders 21Green station, she was afraid that she might be spotted with PC Walters by someone she knew. Rumours would immediately start. All she yearned for now was the safety and the anonymity of her own home.

‘I can manage from here,’ she said.

‘But the sergeant told me to take you all the way.’

‘It’s only a minute away.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes – thank you very much.’

And before he had the chance to object, Ruth darted off by herself. In fact, her house was some distance away and she walked there as fast as she could, head down, face contorted, her mind filled with searing memories of her ordeal. When she finally reached home, she hurried up the drive and fumbled for her key, eager to hide her shame and wash off the stink of her attacker. She needed three attempts to get the key in the lock. When the door opened, she staggered into the hall. Her mother came waddling out of the living room to greet her but her welcoming smile vanished when she saw how dishevelled Ruth was. Miriam Stein’s questions came out in a breathless stream.

‘What’s happened, Ruth?’ she asked, appalled at what she saw. ‘Where have you been? Why is your coat torn? Who damaged your hat? Why have you come back on your own? Where’s your father? Why hasn’t be brought you home? Is he all right? How did you get here? Can’t you speak? Is there something wrong with you? Why don’t you answer me? Tell me, Ruth – what’s going on?’

It was all too much for her daughter. Faced with the well-meant interrogation, she fainted on the spot.

 

By the time the detectives had driven to Jermyn Street, the fire brigade had the blaze under control and had prevented it from spreading to 22adjacent buildings. A sizeable crowd had gathered on the opposite pavement, watching the flames finally succumbing and hissing in protest. Acrid smoke filled the night air, causing some onlookers to cough or put their hands to their eyes. Pulsing heat was still coming from the shop. There was little sympathy for the owner. He had a German name. That was enough.

Harvey Marmion spoke to the officer in charge of the operation. Sergeant Joe Keedy, meanwhile, talked to the three policemen on duty to see if they’d managed to collect any witness statements. Keedy was a tall, wiry, good-looking man in his thirties with his hat set at a rakish angle. Though he earned less than the inspector, he spent much more on his clothing and appearance. Marmion was a family man. Keedy was a bachelor.

‘What does he say?’ asked Keedy when the inspector came across to him. ‘Can anything be salvaged?’

‘I’m afraid not, Joe. The whole building is gutted.’

‘It’s a pity. Jacob Stein made good suits. Not that I could ever afford one, mark you,’ he said with a wry grin. ‘My wage doesn’t stretch to high-quality bespoke tailors.’

‘You’ll have to wait until you become commissioner,’ said Marmion with a chuckle. ‘Sir Edward was a regular customer here. That’s why he gave this incident priority. As for the fire,’ he went on, ‘it’s done its worst. It’s eaten its way through some of the ceiling joists, so the floors in the upper rooms are unsafe. They’re going to get a man inside there, if they can, to take a closer look at the body. It’s in the room at the front.’

‘Poor devil didn’t get out in time. My guess is that he died of smoke inhalation. Once that stuff gets in your lungs, you’ve got no chance. I’ve seen lots of people who’ve died that way – and just about 23every other way, for that matter. Call it an occupational hazard.’

Before he joined the police force, Keedy had worked briefly in the family firm of undertakers but he lacked the temperament for a funeral director. His lively sense of humour was considered distasteful in a world of professional solemnity. The irony was that his work as a detective involved dead bodies as well, with the added challenge of finding out who had actually committed the murders.

‘What about witnesses?’ asked Marmion.

‘They’re few and far between. According to the constable who was first on the scene, there were over forty people scrambling around inside the shop. When the fire took hold, they got out quickly with whatever they’d managed to grab.’

‘Were any arrests made?’

‘Only two,’ said Keedy. ‘It was like bedlam here, apparently. The constable was lucky to nab the two men that he got.’

‘I’ll make a point of talking to both of them.’

‘One of them was caught with a suit he’d stolen. Why bother to take it? It’s not as if he could wear the blooming thing. He’s a plumber by trade. Can you imagine him going to work in a Jacob Stein suit?’

‘I daresay he wanted a souvenir.’

‘He’s got one, Inspector – a visit to the magistrates’ court.’

They shared a laugh then surveyed the crowd. While Keedy picked out the pretty faces of young women, Marmion was studying the expressions on the faces of the men.

‘Some of them are here, Joe,’ he said. ‘Some of the people who did this have come back to see their handiwork. They know they’re safe. When a crowd is on the rampage, it’s almost impossible to pick out individuals. They’re here to gloat.’

‘What about the women?’ 24

‘In their case, it’s mostly idle curiosity.’

‘I don’t know about that,’ said Keedy. ‘Did you read about what happened in Liverpool yesterday? When they ran riot there, one of the ringleaders was a sixty-year-old woman.’

‘I saw the article. She helped to set fire to a garage owned by someone with a German name. Her son was a carpenter on the Lusitania. He’s feared dead.’

‘What she did was understandable.’

Marmion was firm. ‘That doesn’t make it right, Joe.’

‘No, no, I suppose not.’

There was a buzz of interest from the crowd when they saw the fire engine moving closer so that its ladder could be brought into use. Hoses had stopped playing on the upper floor and were concentrating their aim on the glowing embers in the shop. A fireman removed his helmet to wipe the sweat from his brow. After receiving orders from a superior, he gave a nod and put the helmet on again. There was no glass left in the upper windows and smoke was still curling out of them. When the ladder was in position, the fireman went slowly up it.

‘Better him than me,’ said Keedy. ‘I can feel the heat from here.’

‘It’s what they’re trained to do, Joe.’

‘They’ve had plenty of practice since the Lusitania sank.’

‘I’ll be glad when this mania dies down. It’s costing too many lives. All right,’ said Marmion, ‘they may have German names but they’ve all been naturalised. If they hadn’t been, they’d be interned by now. They’re British citizens who chose to live here because they believed they could have a better life in our country. They work hard, set up businesses, pay their taxes and keep out of trouble.’ He gestured towards the shop. ‘Then this happens. It’s sickening.’ 25

‘It’s the prevailing mood, Inspector. Nothing we can do about that except to pick up the pieces afterwards. Hang on,’ said Keedy, looking up. ‘I think he’s going inside.’

They watched with interest as the fireman at the top of the ladder used his axe to hack away the charred remains of the window frame. Putting the axe away in his belt, he cocked a leg over the sill then switched on his torch. The next moment, he ducked his head and climbed gingerly into the room to test its floorboards and joists. Marmion and Keedy waited for what seemed like an age for the man to reappear. When he finally did so, he came back through the window then descended the ladder. His superior was waiting for him.

The detectives remained patient as the fireman removed his helmet before delivering his report. Though he could hear none of the words spoken, Marmion could see that it was an animated discussion. When the officer pointed upwards, the fireman shook his head decisively. At length his superior gave the man a congratulatory pat then looked around for the detectives. Marmion and Keedy stepped forward to meet him.

‘Well,’ said Marmion, ‘what did he find?’

‘There is a body there, Inspector,’ replied the officer, ‘but he was unable to reach it because part of the floor had given way. We’ll have to wait until we can approach it from below.’

‘How long will that take?’

‘Your guess is as good as mine – hours at least.’

‘What state was the body in?’ asked Keedy.

‘Oh,’ said Marmion, introducing his colleague, ‘this is Sergeant Keedy. He’s not asking his question out of ghoulish curiosity. He used to work for an undertaker and has seen many victims of fires.’

‘They’ve usually been overcome by smoke,’ noted Keedy. 26

‘Not in this instance,’ said the officer, grimacing. ‘My man couldn’t reach him but he got close enough to see the knife sticking out of his chest. There was something else he noticed, Inspector. The safe door was wide open.’ He shook his head in disgust. ‘You’re not just dealing with arson and theft, I’m afraid. You’ve got a murder case on your hands.’

27

CHAPTER FOUR

Ruth stayed in the bath even though the water was getting cold. She felt dirty all over. She was still stunned at the way that her body had been invaded by a complete stranger. Until her terrifying encounter in the alley, she’d had only a fuzzy idea of what sexual intercourse involved. All that her mother had told her was that she had to ‘save yourself for your husband’. That was impossible now. The thing she was supposed to save had been cruelly wrested from her. What potential husband would even consider her now? He’d regard her as tainted. And if she hid the awful truth from him, he’d be bound to discover it on their wedding night. Ruth’s virginity had gone for ever. In its place, her assailant had left her with pain, fear and revulsion. The thought that he might also have left her pregnant made her tremble uncontrollably.

They would all blame her but not as much as she blamed herself. What had she done wrong? Why didn’t she call for help? Should she 28have pleaded with them? Should she have run back to her father? Why did she slap one of them across the face? Was that her mistake? Would they have let her go if she’d simply given them a kiss? Who would believe what she had suffered and who could possibly understand? Ruth felt defenceless and horribly alone.

Her mother had tried to send for the doctor but Ruth had begged her not to do so. She claimed that she would be fine after a bath and locked herself in the bathroom. Water was hopelessly inadequate. It might cleanse her body but it could not remove the ugly stain of her torment. That would always be at the back of her mind. Ten minutes in an alleyway had ruined her life. It was unfair.

Her mother banged on the door.

‘Ruth!’ she called. ‘Are you all right in there?’

‘Yes, Mother,’ replied her daughter, meekly.

‘You don’t sound all right. You’ve been in there over an hour.’

‘I’ll be out soon, I promise.’

‘I want you to come out now,’ said Miriam, ‘and I still think that the doctor should have a look at you. It’s not right for a healthy girl of your age to faint like that. You frightened me.’

‘I’m sorry, Mother. I didn’t mean to.’

‘Your Uncle Herman agrees with me. I spoke to him on the telephone. He thinks we should call the doctor. I told him what had happened and he was very worried. He said that it was unlike you to desert your father like that.’

‘He told me to go,’ bleated Ruth. ‘Father told me to go.’

‘Your Uncle Herman was shocked.’

It was something else for which she’d be blamed. Ruth winced.

‘Can you hear me?’ said Miriam, raising her voice. ‘Your Uncle Herman was shocked. He’s driven off to the West End to find out 29what happened to your father. He feels that you should have stayed with him. You’re our daughter. It was your duty.’

‘I’ve said that I’m sorry.’

‘It’s so uncharacteristic. Whatever possessed you?’

There was a long silence. It served only to provoke Miriam. Pounding on the door with a fist, she delivered her ultimatum.

‘Get out of that bath,’ she ordered. ‘If you don’t do as you’re told, I’ll fetch the doctor this instant. Get out of that bath and let me in. I won’t ask you again, Ruth.’

There was no escape. Ruth decided that she would sooner face an angry mother than an embarrassing examination from a doctor. She heaved herself up into a standing position.

‘I’ll be there in a moment,’ she said.

‘So I should hope.’

Ruth clambered out of the bath and reached for the towel. When she’d wrapped herself up in it, she turned the key and unlocked the door. Her mother stepped in with an accusatory stare.

‘What on earth’s got into you, Ruth?’ she demanded.

‘I feel much better now.’

‘I’m your mother. You don’t need to lock me out.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘And look at the way you’ve dropped everything on the floor,’ said Miriam, bending over the pile of clothes. ‘You’re always so careful about hanging things up. What’s got into you?’

She picked up the clothes and was about to put them on a chair when her eye fell on a stocking. Miriam gaped at the large bloodstain.

 

Herman Stein bore a close resemblance to his elder brother. He had the same paunch, the same rounded shoulders and the same 30facial features. He’d kept much more of his hair than the tailor but that was the only marked difference between the two men. Having driven to the West End, he parked his car and hurried to Jermyn Street. The fire engine was still outside the smoking shop owned by his brother but some of the crowd had melted away. When he spoke to the senior officer, he was told that the incident was in the hands of Scotland Yard detectives. Marmion and Keedy were pointed out to him. Face clouded with foreboding, he went straight across to them.

‘My name is Herbert Stone,’ he said. ‘Jacob Stein is my brother.’

Marmion didn’t need to ask why the man had anglicised his surname. It was a precaution that many people of German origin had taken after the war had broken out. He introduced himself and the sergeant then chose his words with care.

‘Your brother’s premises were attacked by a mob,’ he explained. ‘We’ve reason to believe that he was trapped by the fire in an upstairs room.’

‘That’s where he’d have been, Inspector,’ said Stone. ‘Earlier this evening, he was up there with my niece, going through the books. I hear that she came home alone in a terrible state but there was no sign of Jacob. His car is still in its usual parking place. I left mine beside it.’

‘Nothing is certain, sir. We’re only working on assumptions.’

‘It must be Jacob – who else could it be?’

‘I have no idea, Mr Stone.’

‘Can’t they get the body out?’

‘Not until it’s safe to do so,’ said Keedy. ‘Much of the floor in that room has collapsed and the staircase has been burnt down. They’ll need to prop up the remaining part of the floor before they can climb up 31there, and they can’t do that until they can clear enough of the debris from the ground floor.’

‘What kind of scum did this?’ asked Stone, staring angrily at the wreckage. ‘It’s unforgivable. How did the police let this happen? Aren’t you supposed to protect property?’

‘We can’t stand vigil over every shop, sir. Our manpower is limited. When there was an appeal for volunteers to join the army, we lost a lot of policemen.’

‘That’s no excuse, Sergeant.’

‘It’s a fact of life.’

‘What are you doing about this outrage now?’

‘We have two of the culprits in custody,’ said Marmion, ‘and there’ll be other arrests before too long. First of all, of course, we need to establish if it is your brother in there. Given the circumstances, that may not be easy.’

‘I’d recognise Jacob in any condition,’ asserted Stone. ‘Even if he’s been badly burnt, I’ll know if it’s him.’

‘We’re very grateful for your assistance, sir. You say that your niece was here earlier this evening?’

‘Yes – she joined her father after the shop was closed.’

‘Then she may well have been on the premises when the window was smashed and the fire started. We’ll need to interview her. She should be able to give us valuable information.’

‘Ruth has been acting very strangely since she got back.’

‘That’s not surprising,’ said Keedy. ‘She’d still be in shock. It would have been a gruesome experience for anyone.’

‘Needless to say,’ added Marmion, ‘we’ll exercise discretion. If her father is dead, she’ll need time to adjust to the tragedy. We won’t bother her until she’s ready to help us.’ He glanced up at the shop. 32‘I understand that there was a safe in that room. Do you happen to know what your brother kept in it, Mr Stone?’

‘Of course,’ said the other. ‘The safe contained documents relevant to the business – invoices, receipts, designs, account books, details of current orders and so on.’

‘What about money?’

‘He always kept a substantial amount in there, Inspector. Apart from anything else, there was the wages bill at the end of each week. He employed a full-time staff of four and one part-timer.’ His chest swelled with pride. ‘As a gentleman’s outfitter, my brother was a match for anyone.’

‘I see that you’re wearing a Jacob Stein suit, sir,’ noted Keedy.

‘I’m not just doing so out of family loyalty, Sergeant. I like the best and that’s what he always provided.’ His irritation sharpened. ‘How much longer do they have to wait until they can go in there?’

‘Only the fire brigade can tell you that, sir.’

‘Then I’ll see if I can hurry them up.’

Turning on his heel, Stone went off to accost the senior officer, leaving the detectives on their own. Keedy watched him go.

‘I didn’t see much sign of grief,’ he commented. ‘If it was my brother up there in that room, I’d be heartbroken.’

‘His anger is masking his grief,’ said Marmion. ‘Underneath that bluster, I’m sure that he’s already in mourning. What we’re seeing is a natural fury that the shop has gone up in smoke simply because it had a German name over it.’

‘Why didn’t you tell him the full story, Inspector?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘His brother was stabbed to death,’ Keedy reminded him.

‘First, we’re not absolutely sure that it is Jacob Stein. Second, even if 33it is, we need to establish the exact cause and likely time of death before we give those details to any relatives. Police work is sometimes about holding back information, Joe.’

‘Supposing one of the firemen tells him?’

‘I made it clear that they were to say nothing. There are a couple of reporters hanging about. If they get a sniff of murder, it will be all over the newspapers tomorrow. I want to conduct this investigation at our pace and not that of the British press.’

‘Fair enough – what do we do now?’

‘Nothing much is going to happen here for a while,’ decided Marmion, ‘so I’ll slip off and interview the two people in custody.’

‘Do you want me to come with you?’

‘No thanks, Joe. You stay here. And if any reporters try to pester you, don’t give anything away.’ Marmion was about to leave when he remembered something. ‘By the way, that was very clever of you. How did you know that Mr Stone had a Jacob Stein suit?’

‘That was easy,’ explained Keedy. ‘I can pick out the work of all the best outfitters in London. Their styles are so individual. Then there’s the other clue, of course.’

‘What other clue?’

‘You’ve met Stone. He likes to dress well and he’s the kind of man who’d always patronise someone who gave him a big discount. Nobody else but his brother would do that.’

Marmion grinned. ‘You ought to be a detective, Joe Keedy.’

 

Ruth was in a world of her own. Wearing a dressing gown, she sat on the edge of the sofa with her arms wrapped protectively across her chest. Her mother had replaced annoyance with sympathy. All her instincts told her that her daughter had been through a devastating experience 34and was in need of love and comfort. She made Ruth a hot drink but the girl would not even touch it. Miriam sat beside her, stroking her back gently.

‘You’re home now, Ruth,’ she said, softly. ‘You’re safe. Nobody can touch you here.’ She picked up the cup. ‘Why don’t you take a sip of this?’ The girl shook her head. ‘It will do you good.’

Ruth could not imagine that anything on earth could do her good. She was utterly beyond help. In spite of what her mother said, Ruth was not safe in her home. He’d followed her there. She could still smell his foul breath and feel his weight pressing down on her. She could still recall the intense pain he’d inflicted in pursuit of his pleasure. Her breasts were still sore after their kneading. Her mouth still tasted of him. Her vagina was smarting.

Miriam put the cup back in the saucer and moved in closer.

‘What happened?’ she whispered.

‘Nothing …’

‘Something must have upset you. What was it?’

‘There was nothing.’

‘I’m not blind, Ruth. I saw that blood and it’s not the right time of the month for that. It’s not the only stain I saw on your stocking. I’m bound to wonder, darling. Every mother has those fears for her daughter. I’m no different.’ She put an arm around Ruth’s shoulders. ‘Tell me the truth. It will have to come out sooner or later. Why hold it back? Whatever has happened, I’ll still love you – we all will. But we can’t help you if you don’t tell us how. Do you see that?’

‘Yes, Mother,’ said Ruth, quietly.

‘Then please – please – tell me what this is all about.’

There was a long pause. Her mother was right. Ruth could not stay silent indefinitely. The truth could not be hidden. When she tried to 35speak, however, Ruth almost choked on the words. She began to retch. Miriam pulled her close and rocked her gently to and fro until Ruth recovered. Then she kissed her daughter on the forehead.

‘Take your time,’ she advised. ‘There’s no hurry.’

Taking a deep breath, Ruth summoned up her courage.

‘It was my fault,’ she said, blankly. ‘It was all my fault.’

 

The first man interviewed by Marmion at the police station was of little help. Roused from a drunken stupor, he admitted that he’d joined the mob when it marched past the pub where he’d been drinking because he was hoping for some excitement. When the window of the shop in Jermyn Street had been broken, he’d clambered inside and helped to smash the place up until someone set it on fire. As he tried to flee, he was arrested by a policeman. Marmion was satisfied that he was telling the truth and that he’d been acting alone. He clearly had no idea who had been leading the mob or who had started the fire.

The second man who was cooling his heels in a police cell was a different proposition. Brian Coley was a surly plumber in his late twenties, a solid man with tattoed forearms and an ugly face twisted into a permanent scowl. When Marmion started to question him, the prisoner became truculent.

‘You got no reason to keep me here,’ he protested.

‘From what I hear, Mr Coley, we have every reason. According to the arresting officer, you were part of a gang that broke into the shop and vandalised it. When you were leaving, you had a suit in your possession.’

‘It weren’t mine.’

‘I gathered that.’

‘I mean, I didn’t steal it. What happened was this, see? Some other 36bloke give it me. When he saw that copper waiting to pounce on him, he shoves the suit in my hands then hops it. So the copper arrests me instead, when I was just an innocent bystander.’

‘You were actually seen inside the shop area.’

‘Who says so?’

‘It was the policeman who arrested you.’

‘Then he’s lying his bleeding head off.’

‘Now why should he do that, Mr Coley?’

‘Coppers are all the same,’ said the plumber, curling his lip. ‘They’re liars. I never went into that shop.’

‘But you admit that you were in Jermyn Street?’

‘Yeah … I sort of … happened to be passing.’

‘Really?’ said Marmion, raising a cynical eyebrow. ‘I checked your address before I came in here. How does someone who lives in Shoreditch happen to be passing a gentleman’s outfitters in the West End?’

Coley folded his arms. ‘Can’t remember.’

‘You were in that vicinity with the express purpose of damaging private property. Why not be honest about it? You entered that shop and stole a suit.’

‘It’s not true.’

‘Let me ask you something else,’ said Marmion, changing his tack. ‘What do you think of the Germans?’

Coley snorted. ‘I hate the whole lot of them.’

‘Why is that?’

‘They’re fighting a war against us, of course – and they sunk the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland. Germans are vicious animals.’

‘That’s a term that might be used of the mob in Jermyn Street this evening. The attack was certainly vicious – and all because the shop was owned by a man named Jacob Stein.’ 37

‘He deserved it.’

‘Why?’

‘He’s one of them German bastards.’

‘He was a naturalised British citizen,’ affirmed Marmion. ‘That means he has as much right to live in this country as you or me. If you’re so keen to punish Germans, why don’t you have the guts to join the army? You could fight them on equal terms then.’

Coley glowered at him. ‘I got my job to look after.’

‘Thousands of other able-bodied men have already volunteered.’

‘That’s their business.’

Marmion regarded him with a mixture of interest and contempt. He’d met a lot of people like the plumber, resentful men with a hatred of any authority and a particular dislike of the police. From the way that Coley seemed at ease in custody, Marmion deduced that he’d been in trouble before. One thing was certain. Coley had not been alone. He knew others who’d been party to the attack on the shop. He had the names that could be useful in the inquiry.

‘Who else was with you?’ asked Marmion.

Coley shrugged. ‘I was on my own.’

‘What about the man you claim handed you that suit?’

‘Never set eyes on him before.’

‘I don’t believe that he existed. Your friends, however, do exist. You run with a pack. You wouldn’t have the courage to do anything like that on your own. A man who’s too afraid to fight for his king and country needs someone else to hide behind.’

‘I’m not afraid of anything!’ yelled Coley.

‘Not even a long prison sentence?’

‘You can’t send me to prison. I done nothing wrong.’

‘That’s not what the jury will think,’ warned Marmion. ‘You were 38part of a mob involved in arson, trespass, theft, wilful destruction of private property and – directly or indirectly – in the death of the owner of the shop. Mr Stein was upstairs at the time.’

Coley swallowed hard. ‘I never touched him.’

‘That may be true but you might know someone who did. At the very least, you know other people who were there and they, in turn, can give us additional names.’ Marmion put his face close to him and spoke with quiet menace. ‘However long it takes, I’m going to track down every single person who was involved in that disgraceful attack and bring them to justice. The one I’m most anxious to meet is the man who started that fire then threw petrol on to it. Was it you or one of your friends, sir?’ Coley shook his head vigorously. ‘I’ll leave you to think it over. When I come back again, I’ll expect you to remember the names and addresses of those who brought you all the way from Shoreditch so that you could vent your spleen on an innocent man.’

‘I had nothing to do with that fire,’ asserted the prisoner.

‘Then who did?’