Captain Graham was uncomfortable. He disliked London clubs, but here he was, drinking tea in one. Moreover, he was sitting opposite Colonel Child, a man he always hoped to avoid.
“Glad you could come,” Child said.
As if I could refuse, Graham thought. I can hardly ignore the man who was my commanding officer in the Military Mounted Police.
“Now that I’ve retired from the army,” Child continued, “I run my family’s insurance business. Among our policies, we insure the Sea Wolf Cup, one of the silver trophies of the London Guards regiment. It’s a very valuable item dating from the seventeenth century.” Child puffed at a cigar and looked straight at Graham. “And it’s gone missing.”
“A costly claim for your company, sir,” Graham commented.
“Not if the cup is found and returned,” Child replied.
When Graham said nothing, Child leaned forward. “Look, you’ve been a retired army investigator for almost a year. Since Christmas 1908, wasn’t it? You should use your skills. Finding the cup is just the job for you.”
“Is it, sir?”
“Yes, and don’t delay. I’ve told Colonel Strong of the London Guards to expect you today.”
* * *
After leaving the club, Graham took a tram to the headquarters of the London Guards, where he met Colonel Strong. The colonel disliked being questioned by a retired captain.
“What exactly do you want?” Strong asked.
“I need to speak to some of the officers about the missing cup, sir,” Graham explained.
“What have the officers got to do with it? None of them would steal the cup. It’s been part of this regiment for two hundred years.”
Strong’s manner softened slightly as he said, “We originally took it, you know, after a tremendous fight with a West Indies pirate and his devilish crew. The pirate was known as ‘The Sea Wolf’.”
“Yes, sir. However, I need to check whether the officers saw anything, or anyone, suspicious.”
Strong became abrupt again. “Do as you wish, I suppose. But be quick about it.
* * *
Graham found his way to the officers’ mess. The only person there was a captain reading a newspaper.
“Can I help?” the captain asked.
Graham introduced himself and asked for the captain’s thoughts about the disappearance of the Sea Wolf Cup. The captain, named Collins, proved willing to help.
“You may want to suspect me of the theft,” he said with a smile.
“Is that right?”
“Oh, I’m a shocking gambler, always in debt, always asking for loans from my brother officers.”
“And the cup, of course, is apparently worth a great deal. Keep me in funds for a while, I imagine.” Collins grinned at Graham, who stared calmly back.
“But I’m too lazy to go to the bother of theft,” Collins said and laughed.
The door to the mess banged open. Graham and Collins both turned. A young lieutenant stood on the threshold.
“Keep the noise down, Farrell,” Collins called out.
The lieutenant glared at Collins, hesitated, and left.
“He’s very upset. Got into bother with some girl,” Collins said. “Typical army lieutenant in London, if you ask me.”
Graham thanked Collins for his time and decided to go home. He’d had enough for one day.
* * *
Outside, Graham was about to hail a cab when someone bumped into him. It was Farrell, the lieutenant from the officers’ mess. Farrell didn’t recognise him.
Nor did he apologize. He simply rushed off down the street.
Despite feeling tired, Graham’s instinct took over. He caught a cab and told the driver to keep Farrell in sight.
The cab driver did as Graham asked. Finally, Farrell turned into a lane and the cab driver pulled over.
‘That’s a dead end,’ he said to Graham. ‘Your man’s going nowhere from there.’
Graham paid the driver and peered down the lane. There was no sign of Farrell. At the end, however, was a silversmith’s workshop. As Graham watched, the door opened. A bearded man stepped out and threw a bowl of dirty water onto the cobbles. Graham quickly moved away. That man, he thought, seems familiar.
Graham wrote the name of the lane in a notebook and finally went home.
* * *
The following morning, at breakfast, a telegram arrived for Graham from Colonel Child.
“Sea Wolf Cup returned. Investigation closed.”
Graham frowned. Something, he felt, was wrong.
He finished his breakfast and caught a train to London. First, he visited the silversmith’s at the end of the lane where Farrell had led him the day before.
He spent almost half an hour there. Next, he took a cab to the headquarters of the London Guards.
Colonel Strong was unhappy to see him.
“What do you want now?” Strong asked. “The Sea Wolf Cup is back.”
“Yes, sir, but I need to check something—for the insurance.”
“Only if you then leave us in peace.”
Graham headed for the officers’ mess. Lieutenant Farrell was present, looking grim.
“Excuse me, Lieutenant, I need a moment of your time,” Graham said.
Farrell seemed not to have heard him.
“It’s to do with the Sea Wolf Cup,” Graham said quietly.
Farrell strode from the room and Graham followed.
“Who are you?” Farrell demanded.
“An insurance investigator,” Graham replied. “And a retired officer of the Military Mounted Police.”
Farrell’s body stiffened.
“You recently had a relationship with a silversmith’s daughter, did you not?” Graham asked.
“What of it?”
“When you broke off the relationship, the girl’s father, Baines, threatened to kill you unless you did him a favour.”
“Baines is a brute,” Farrell replied.
“I agree,” Graham said. “Anyway, this favour involved stealing the Sea Wolf Cup. Baines then made a cheap copy from silver plate. It is this copy which you returned, leaving Baines with the valuable original.”
“How do you know this?” Farrell asked.
“Never mind. What matters is that you return the original Sea Wolf Cup.”
“Baines will never agree to that.”
“He will,” Graham said. “Ask him. In fact, do so now and I’ll say nothing to Colonel Strong. I’ll wait for you here. And one other thing: Treat girls with greater respect in the future.”
Farrell looked angry and confused. Even so, he nodded and left.
* * *
Later that day, Graham arranged to meet Colonel Child in the club. Graham described the morning’s events.
“So you ignored my telegram because you felt that something was not quite right,” Child said.
“No matter, Graham. The original Sea Wolf Cup is back in place, Colonel Strong is none the wiser, and my company has not had to pay an insurance claim.” Child paused to sip a sherry and then said, “It’s fortunate that you knew the silversmith, Baines.”
“I recognized him, sir. He was a deserter I’d tracked unsuccessfully years ago in India. He came to London, where he changed his name and profession. When I went to his workshop, he also remembered me. So we came to an agreement. I wouldn’t report him to the Military Mounted Police in return for the cup.”
Graham pointed at a leather bag. “I have the replica cup here, sir.”
“Keep it as part of your fee, Graham,” Child said and finished his sherry. “You can go now. I’ll let you know when I next need you.”
“Need me, sir?”
“Oh, I’m sure I will. Someone is always stealing something.”
By K. J. Watson
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