Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter One



“And is the accused represented in court?” asked Charles Gunn.

He did not think, for one moment that the slender young man standing in the dock would have a lawyer here; he didn’t appear to have two pennies to rub together. Yet he had a scrubbed look, and was clean-shaven and short-haired. No one of his age, and he must be in his middle twenties, should have those sunken cheeks and eyes so vividly bright in their deep, dark sockets. He stood upright and very still, looking straight at Gunn, the magistrate on duty that morning.

“No,” he said, clearly.

Farriman, the fussy little, prim little, knowing little magistrates’ clerk, fussed with papers and spoke as if he had not heard the prisoner’s answer.

“No sir, he’s not represented. Perhaps you could suggest legal aid.”

“Does the accused plead guilty or not guilty?” Gunn asked. He never ceased to be slightly exasperated by the clerk, but seldom showed it.

Again the prisoner answered very clearly.

“Not guilty, sir.”

Gunn looked at the young man, wondering what were the events that had led up to the act of violence that had brought him here. This had all the appearances of a straightforward and simple case; and a grave one. The prisoner was accused of “hitting a man over the head with a musical instrument, to wit, an electric guitar, with intent to cause grievous bodily harm”. “Grievous bodily harm’ could bring life imprisonment, but was likely to be seven to ten years, unless the man who had been attacked died.

Gunn brought himself up sharply. He was thinking in terms of the accused’s guilt, and that was both wrong and unusual. All he had heard so far was the evidence of arrest and the charge. He was very conscious of that direct gaze; but he had long since learned, however keen his concentration on the man in the dock, to be aware of the rest of the court. Any unusual movement, while seldom distracting him, was carefully noted; and he noted now the unexpected appearance of a latecomer. This latecomer, tall, lean, strong-looking and quite unusually handsome, gave a respectful nod to the bench—to Gunn —and joined the grey-haired Chief Inspector of the Metropolitan Police, who had made the formal charge.

“I wonder what’s brought West,” Gunn remarked to himself. And, seeing the prisoner’s gaze flicker blankly for a moment, “Rapelli doesn’t recognise him.”

The two senior policemen were whispering, the three newspapermen in the Press Box now seemed much more interested in West than in anything else, the court officials, including the two wardens with Rapelli, all watched West. That wasn’t really surprising. Chief Superintendent Roger “Handsome” West was probably the best- known policeman in England, with the possible exception of the commander of the Criminal Investigation Department. Moreover, he attracted publicity as a candle attracts moths. His looks; his flair for detection; his persistence and thoroughness and—not least—the countless examples of his unflinching physical courage, all contributed to his reputation. He seldom came to court, and Gunn could not remember him coming to this one except on a major case.

So, why was he here this morning? Why should the apparently impetuous crime, the result of a fight between two young men, bring this senior policeman whose desk must be covered with details of investigations into major crimes?

The grey-haired Chief Inspector, Leeminster, turned away from West, who sat back on the police bench and crossed his legs. He did no more than glance at the man in the dock.

All of this had taken only a few seconds yet it had brought a noticeable lull, creating a mood almost of suspense. This was heightened as Leeminster neared the bench, and as the door to the public benches opened and a young woman came in. On that instant, two things happened at once. Charles Gunn saw West glance very appraisingly at the girl. And the three reporters moved, putting their heads together as if as impressed by this arrival as by West’s.

“What is it? What is it?” Farriman the magistrates’ clerk asked Leeminster.

“The police ask for a remand in custody,” said Leeminster.

Of course they did on such a charge, thought Gunn, even more puzzled. Leeminster, obviously prompted by West, had repeated that request quickly.

The girl was passing the public benches and approaching those where the police and the solicitors and officials sat. She was very striking-looking, her slender figure making her appear taller than in fact she was, and wore an olive green suede suit and tightly fitting hat, which practically covered her short, chestnut-brown hair. She glanced coldly at West, and Gunn felt sure the two had met before. He was mildly amused, for West had the reputation of being a ladies’ man.

The girl came straight up to the bench. The prisoner seemed to shape his lips to speak and his grip on the rail became very tight. West moved back in his seat—amused? wondered Gunn; or resigned?

Farriman, who had also been distracted, had taken his time writing down the police request. Now, pretending not to notice the girl, he said, “The police request a remand in custody, sir. The usual period is eight days.” Farriman must have irritated a dozen magistrates by that piece of gratuitous information.

“I would be grateful for a hearing now, your honour,” the girl said clearly.

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