The witness’s eyes were turned towards Rapelli, and she nodded.

“I did.”

“Will you tell the court what time you were with him?”

“From seven o’clock until nine,” answered the witness, precisely.

“Seven o’clock until nine,” echoed Charles Gunn, frowning. He had a feeling that this over-made-up young woman was enjoying herself, finding this appearance before the court quite fun. He felt disapproving, not at all sure that she would hesitate to perjure herself, but that wasn’t his chief anxiety. It would be difficult to make sure that the evidence was keyed to the remand, and he had a feeling that Rachel Warrender proposed to bring evidence about the accusation. He alone was the authority in the court, and he alone could decide how far to let her go with her witnesses.

The fair girl, at all events, was under oath. He glanced down at Farriman, who came into his own at last.

“Will you please read the charge, Mr. Farriman, and all relevant statements made in court?”

“Gladly, sir! The police witness, on oath, stated that he called on the accused, Mario Lucullus Rapelli, at his home at eleven sixteen o’clock last night, Thursday, May 21st, and first cautioned and then charged him with assaulting a Mr. Ricardo Verdi at 17, Doons Way, Hampstead, last evening between eight o’clock and nine o’clock and of causing Mr. Verdi grievous bodily harm by striking him over the head with an electric guitar. The accused denied the charge. After cautioning the accused for a second time the witness stated he told him he was under arrest. He took him to the Mid-Western Divisional Police Station and there he was lodged for the night.”

Leeminster gave a little nod.

“Thank you,” Gunn said, and at last looked at the witness. Before he could speak, she burst out, “He couldn’t have attacked Ricky, he was with me, in Chelsea, in my flat.” Then she drew herself up and thrust her provocatively lifted bosom forward, adding in a ringing tone, “In my bed! And I’ve two witnesses to prove it.”

Someone gasped; two or three tittered; the newspapermen made notes with great eagerness, and Maisie Dunster surveyed the court with an air of triumph at having created a sensation. And she had. Gunn kept his self- control with an effort. He should have questioned the witness himself, of course; by allowing Rachel Warrender to do so he had invited trouble. It was partly because he wanted to hear what would be said. Then, almost unbelieving, he saw Roger West stand up and ask in a most casual-seeming voice, “As a point of interest, Miss Dunster, were the other two witnesses in your bed at the same time?”

Maisie Dunster turned to look at him.

“As a matter of fact, they were, she said defiantly. “Have you never heard of a sex-party?”

Charles Gunn sat very still and expressionless. He was of a generation which could still be shocked, yet not surprised, by Maisie Dunster’s brazen statements; at such moments he concluded that he was much more Victorian than he had realised. But the essential thing was to rebuke West, and he said in his sternest voice, “Superintendent, you have no right at all to intervene. Such intervention amounts to contempt of court, as you must know.”

Farriman, glaring at Roger, obviously agreed. West’s expression was difficult to assess, and Gunn knew he had been fully aware of his offence but had taken the risk in order to throw some doubt on to the reliability of the witness.

“I am very sorry, sir,” he said. “Very sorry.”

Gunn growled, “Very well. I will overlook your intervention. As for the witness’s evidence, I do not see its relevance to the issue of a remand.” He glowered at Rachel Warrender, then went on in a clipped voice, “The accused is remanded for eight days on two sureties other than himself of five hundred pounds each. Will you make any arrangements you think necessary below the court,” he added to Rachel Warrender. “Failing the two sureties then of course the accused must remain in custody.” He rapped the bench with his gavel. “Next case, please.”

Almost at once, the two policemen by the dock helped Rapelli out. Perhaps the most remarkable thing was that the prisoner obviously needed physical support, being so very near collapse. Rachel Warrender hurried after him, while the newspapermen crowded round Maisie. Once she was outside the door of the courtroom, cameras began to click . . .

•     •     •

There in the Globe was a front-page picture of Maisie Dunster and, in the background and coming out of the courtroom, was Roger West. Among the people who saw the picture and read the story was Commander Coppell, chief executive of the Criminal Investigation Department of New Scotland Yard, as he sat back in his car after a very late luncheon at the Guildhall. Coppell, a heavy, rather sultry-looking man with smooth, shiny black hair, sat up, read the story in detail, then glowered out of the window at the traffic in the Strand. It was nearly four o’clock before he reached his office. A rather prim and over-zealous secretary was at the door as he opened it.

“The assistant commissioner would like you to call him, sir.”

“Get him,” growled Coppell. He went to his desk and sat down, opened the Globe out before him and reread the article. Almost at once his telephone bell rang.

“The assistant commissioner,” announced his secretary.

Coppell grunted, and then said, “You want me, sir?”

“What can you tell me about this Rapelli case?” enquired the assistant commissioner, who was the chief of the C.I.D. department and directly responsible to the commissioner.

“Only what I’ve read in the Globe, growled Coppell.

“Didn’t you know about it this morning?” The assistant commissioner sounded surprised.

“Oh, West told me about the arrest and said he wanted to ask for an eight-day remand. He didn’t suggest there was anything out of the ordinary about it.” Coppell’s voice was raw with an overtone of complaint. “Or any doubt.”

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