Below, a few researched and edited chapters from the novel, “MacKinnon’s Diamond” by the renowned Scottish-South African author Glenn Macaskill. Please read, enjoy and appraise.
(Please note; in the text below, the BOLD ITALICS will be the Researched Editing notes.)
After having finally accounted for the fugitive Iain MacKinnon in Northern Natal, South Africa, in August 1898, Detective Sergeant Lyall Hendry met up with his colleague Detective Richard (Dick) Avery in the town of Newcastle. He explained tersely what had happened and Avery was mightily impressed. Then they made their way by rail to Durban and having identified themselves to an amiable superintendent at Natal Police Headquarters, cabled the news to Detective Inspector Allan Skelton at Scotland Yard in London. The same superintendent briefed his Police Commissioner and within days Hendry and Avery were on a ship to England.
During the voyage Lyall Hendry was for the most part retiring and not as communicative as usual, which young Avery found rather strange. What might he be holding back? Hendry’s rugged features rarely displayed any humour and he would sit on deck for long periods looking at the sea while the breeze lightly ruffled his curly blond hair. (perhaps, while introducing the character one may include whether the humourless countenance is his norm.) They arrived at St Catherine’s Dock, London, in mid-September with very little luggage, and were met by Detective Sergeant Matthew Rundle, Allan Skelton’s number two. After genial greetings and some back-slapping, they hailed a cab to Scotland Yard. Summer was over and a chill wind swept across the quay. The cold reminded Lyall of the wintry Drakensberg Mountains in Natal, and also the Scottish Highlands near Aberdeen from where he originated.
On entering the Yard, Hendry handed in his own and MacKinnon’s revolvers and ammunition at the armoury and Avery followed suit with his own. Then Matt Rundle led them to Allan Skelton’s office. As they entered Skelton stood with a broad smile. “Welcome home lads! And may I congratulate you on your successful mission!” He came from behind his desk and shook their hands. Rundle waited silently to one side.
“Thank you sir, but we never found Patrick Rogan,” replied Hendry with a hint of apology in his tone. Skelton grinned. “Never mind that for now. You got the main job done and that’s most important.” He paused for a moment, looking from one to the other. Avery as always showed enthusiasm but Hendry seemed withdrawn – not like the eager man that Allan had met previously. That was when Hendry had been temporarily seconded from the Scottish Constabulary to the Yard and sent to South Africa to replace Skelton who’d broken his ankle.
(to clear, Why was Lyall sent from Scotland, (The Yard “obviously” always has the best – -) any special talent/experience, which Skelton had + needed to be replaced after he was incapacitated? If so, perhaps for reader who did not read the prequel, brief info)
Lyall and Avery had been on a mission to recapture Iain MacKinnon who’d been serving a life sentence for the attempted assassination of Queen Victoria during her Silver Jubilee parade in June 1897. MacKinnon had escaped from Newgate Prison with the assistance of *Patrick Rogan, his former business partner in India. “Now, let’s all have a cup of tea and currant buns while we carry out the debriefing,” Skelton continued. “Matt, please organise with the kitchen if you don’t mind?” “Of course, sir.” He left the office.
Skelton kicked off by opening a buff folder that contained all the telegraph messages that had passed between London, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria during the previous months. “I’ve a good idea of what happened during the pursuit… all I’d like to do is go through the events and incidents that took place after I was brought back with my blasted broken ankle…” He was going through the file piece by piece when Rundle returned with the tea and buns. Once they were dipping them in their tea and chewing with appreciation, Skelton resumed. Among other things, he covered the Swaziland aspect of the chase and spent a lot of time questioning Hendry and Avery to obtain more information about their strategy to find MacKinnon and Rogan after the trail had been lost at the Swazi border. Henry and Avery responded in detail and Skelton nodded in satisfaction once each item had been finalised.
It was when they came to Hendry’s final confrontation with MacKinnon that Skelton noticed an almost imperceptible change in the Scotsman’s expression. His lips tightened, his green eyes seemed to glaze momentarily and become distant, and he was slow to find the words to describe exactly what had happened. He paused often, scratching his jaw or tugging at an earlobe. Was he hiding something? If so, what? Allan wondered. Eventually Hendry finished his account in what appeared to be a more confident way and Skelton nodded after making further notes.
“Right, gentlemen,” he said. “That’s it for now. If there’s anything else I’ll come back to you. What I suggest is that you each take a week’s leave. Relax at home or wherever. Sergeant Rundle will arrange the leave forms. Also think about what’s happened and if more comes to mind, let me know at once. I need to present a full report on the whole matter to HQ who no doubt will pass it on to the Commissioner and the Justice Minister.” Hendry and Avery voiced their thanks. The latter ventured, “Excuse me sir, but what about Patrick Rogan? Surely something should be done?”
Skelton gave him a wry smile. “Good question, Dick… that’s the one loose end. It’s now up to me and the powers that be to decide what comes next. As you’ve told me, the last that was seen of him was when he and MacKinnon were mining in Swaziland. You had no further news so we must assume that he’s either escaped or maybe even perished somehow.” (was there a reason in previous book Why this may have become his fate? Repeat it, if so?) He paused and stroked his small brown moustache. “But for now don’t worry about it. And have a good rest.” He stood and shook their hands again. Both thanked him again and Rundle escorted them from the office. After they’d gone Allan sat for long moments, still wondering about Hendry’s manner and pondering how he should compile his report. Little did he realise that Lyall Hendry knew exactly what he himself was going to do.
Lyall Hendry took the first train to Aberdeen after sending a cable to his mother Evelyn Fletcher (nee Hendry) who lived alone in the city.(forgive, not being facetious, on her own?, or really alone (the only person) in that big city?) She was a former matron at the British military hospital in Bombay and prior to that had been with Florence Nightingale at the hospital in Scutari during the Crimean War.
She was waiting to meet him at the railway station in mid-afternoon, (they arrived this same morning at the harbour, visited the Yard, ate buns and tea, then he went to the telegraph office, then the station, what will the time be? Earliest 11 -12? no difference, London to Aberdeen, 880 km and be there Mid -afternoon (2-3 hrs), in an 1889 steam train? In a Concorde perhaps.) her slim figure well wrapped against the cold winter wind. She waved when she saw him leaning out of a window and he acknowledged. When the steam train came to a halt, he alighted carrying his medium sized, bulging travelling bag and made his way to her past other milling passengers. Her dark eyes were bright as they hugged each other.
“Welcome home, son! It’s wonderful to see you again. And well done in South Africa,” she added with a wide, enthusiastic smile.
“Aye, it’s good to be home, mother. Seems like ages since I left.” He held her at arm’s length and looked at her slightly wrinkled face, framed by brown shoulder-length hair that was showing many streaks of grey. Even though nearing sixty, she was still a handsome woman. “It’s bluddy cold!” he added, pulling his woollen duffel coat tighter at the throat.
“I know, so let’s get going. I have a cab waiting.” She took his arm and they started walking towards the exit. “And I can’t wait to hear all about your exploits in South Africa.”
His lips tightened for a moment then he smiled. “I’ll tell you what I can. Now, I’m hoping that you’ve prepared haggis for supper… I’ve really missed it!”
She laughed. “Of course, son… a special treat for you with plenty of dark ale.” He grinned and gave her the thumbs up.
They emerged from the station and she led him to the waiting hansom cab. “Right cabby, straight back home please,” she ordered the waiting youngster.
“Right away, marm.” He tipped his cap at her and Lyall. Moments later they were on the move, the horse’s hooves clopping on the road.
They chatted lightly with Evelyn asking the usual questions a mother would ask a returning son. Lyall responded as best he could but told her to wait until later before he said anything about South Africa. As they proceeded, he glanced every now and again at the passing scenery: small houses on small plots, shops, offices, factories and everything else he well knew about the city of Aberdeen. (is it on purpose because of period speech? – instead of: he knew so well.)
In less than half an hour the cab stopped outside their home. It was a semi-detached, double-storey house with a tiny front garden inside a low brick boundary wall. Evelyn paid the cabby and they went inside. Lyall put his bag on the carpet and proceeded to kindle the newspaper, tinder and logs in the fireplace.
Soon afterwards he and Evelyn were talking in the quickly warming sitting room. He had a mug of ale and she a glass of wine. From the kitchen he could smell the aroma of food cooking and his taste buds stood to attention.
Lyall told her most of what had happened in South Africa and how the fugitive Iain MacKinnon had been tracked down in Northern Natal. She listened intently and her eyes widened in admiration of her son’s part in the chase. She kept saying “well done” as the facts came out. Lyall decided to keep the question that had been burning inside him for a long time until later; he felt that it would cause considerable emotion – not at a time just before what he knew would be a tasty supper.
After a fine haggis and fresh vegetables enjoyed in a homely atmosphere, they sat facing each other in front of the glowing coals. Lyall ground his teeth lightly before popping the question.
“Mother, you told me you’d named me after my biological father who’d been killed in the Indian Mutiny?”
She nodded and a frown crossed her forehead. “Yes I did. Why bring that up?”
His face was grim. “What I want to know is why you lied to me. My father was the assassin Iain MacKinnon, also known as Alastair MacIntyre, a former businessman in Bombay.”
Her head rocked back in shock and she stared at him for long moments. Lyall waited, watching the agonised expression on her face. Then her head dropped and she lifted a tissue to dab her eyes. Almost sobbing she spoke. “L-lyall…” she stuttered. “I’m sorry… I didn’t want to hurt you… you were illegitimate and I wanted to protect you….” her voice tailed off.
He felt sympathy rising and after a short pause crossed to her. Kneeling at her feet, he took her hands. “It’s all right, mother, I understand,” he said comfortingly. “I’ve always loved you and the way you brought me up as a single parent. Look at me please.”
She lifted her head and wiped away the tears. Her moist eyes found his and he felt another wave of empathy. “Thank you, Lyall. I’ve borne the cross as best I could. You’ve been a fine son to me. It was awful for me to find out that your father was an assassin. I didn’t even know that it was him until the arrest… when his other name came to light… the name he used in Bombay.” She shook her head sadly. “I thought I was in love with him but the feeling was never returned. That’s why I never let him know that I was pregnant.”
He squeezed her hands. “Mother, I guess you did the right thing and I don’t blame you. When I found out he was my father I was totally shocked. In a way I wanted to blame you for the subterfuge, but now I can see why you did it.”
“How did you find out, son?” she asked softly.
“He was in possession of my locket which I’d lost… the one with our photographs and names engraved on it. There was also a written testament leaving everything he had to you and me, by name – and also a sizeable sum to the family of the maiden who was killed during his attack on the Queen.”
Evelyn looked at him closely. “Do I understand that he’s dead?”
He nodded sombrely. “I was the one to track him down after he’d jumped off a train while trying to escape. It came to an armed shoot out and I fired in self-defence when he raised his gun. I killed my own father!” His tone was one of anguish.
“Now, now, my boy… calm down… it wasn’t your fault and you were not to know. You must understand that. Do you hear me, Lyall?”
After a pause he answered in a low tone. “Yes mother. But I still have to live with it.”
“But not for long I hope… only a wee while. When you think about it, he may well have deserved to die. Only God will know what made him do what he did.”
“I suppose you’re right. Let’s hope my feeling of guilt won’t last,” he added with a deep sigh and let go of her hands. “The other thing you should know, which I found out during the investigation, is that he was the illegitimate son of Queen Victoria.”
Her face paled. “What are you saying? He tried to kill his mother! Surely that can’t be true!”
“Oh yes, it is. Inspector Skelton of the Yard discovered that. I shouldn’t actually be telling you this… it’s top secret.”
She shook her head slowly. “So you are of royal blood as well. I can’t believe it!”
They stared at each other for a long time, he now sitting on the carpet with his legs crossed. The fire was slowly dying.
Evelyn eventually broke the silence, trying to change the subject. “You mentioned a testament. What did he actually leave behind?”
Lyall stood and went to his bag. He removed a smaller bag from within and moved back to her. “These are what he bequeathed…” Firstly out came a parcel containing a wad of banknotes and a large number of coins, which he placed on the carpet. “There’s a little over seven thousand guineas there.” She blinked at the sight of the money. Next was a bundle of gold nuggets that he placed next to the money. “Value not known yet, but it has to be substantial,” he said. Third was MacKinnon’s Victoria Cross which she viewed with some sadness before setting it down.
“Now we have the real treasure!” He took out a small leather pouch and from it he produced a pink-coloured stone about the size of a duck’s egg. He handed it to her. “This is a genuine uncut diamond; from its size it has to be worth hundreds of thousands of guineas.”
She gasped and held the diamond to the light. Parts of it glittered as she examined it from all angles. “Good Heavens, Lyall! As you say, this must be a fortune.”
“Aye, mother… and it’s ours!”
Glad that the subject had now left MacKinnon and her son’s self-imposed guilt, Evelyn smiled for the first time in quite a while. “Let’s have a drink to celebrate!” She stood and headed for the kitchen.
Later while sipping drinks, Lyall told Evelyn what he intended to do with the windfall – and his plans included her. She grinned and clapped her hands happily.
It was almost Christmas and on a frosty morning in London in 1898, a formal gathering took place in the auditorium at Scotland Yard Headquarters on the Victoria embankment. The Commissioner of Police was backed by the British Minister of Justice and the Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain. Among the other dignitaries present were the Indian ambassador to Britain, a representative of the South African Republic of the Transvaal, and the British High Commissioner to the Cape and Natal Colonies in South Africa. Families, friends and other invited guests were also present. Evelyn Fletcher was there too.
It was an auspicious occasion because the infamous Iain MacKinnon, illegitimate son of the still reigning Queen Victoria, who more than a year previously had attempted to assassinate the monarch without knowing of the relationship, had escaped from prison and eventually been accounted for in South Africa by a team of Scotland Yard detectives. It had proved that justice had prevailed, which saved the British government from the ignominy of failure, politically and professionally. The MacKinnon file could at last be closed.
A piper commenced the proceedings with a rendering of the well-known tune of Amazing Grace. Joseph Chamberlain stepped forward to present the awards. Standing in front was Detective Chief Superintendent William Stratford. Alongside him was the head of the Homicide Section of the Yard, D/I Allan Skelton. Slightly behind were Detective Sergeants Matthew Rundle, Alfred West and Lyall Hendry, and Detective Richard Avery. All were wearing Number 1 dress uniforms. They stood to attention as the honours were announced by the Minister of Justice.
Each man in turn was presented with a framed Commendation Certificate signed by the Justice Minister. D/Sgt Hendry and D/Cst Avery who had been in the front line of the action were each awarded the special Police Medal for Meritorious Service. Also granted to each man were reasonable monetary gratuities. At the end the piper acknowledged with Reveille.
After the ceremony there was a further get-together in a warmed marquis tent in the courtyard where drinks and snacks – comprising the best whisky, ale and sea foods that Britain could muster – were liberally dispersed. At such events the government was not loathe to spend money. Chatting to all the dignitaries, the police detectives were brimming with pride. At last they’d been recognised and rewarded – or had they?
(Merely curiosity, how on earth do u warm a marquis/marquee tent in those days, make a fire, hot water containers, or did they already have portable electrical heaters? Thanks.)
Early in January 1899, the annual promotions board hearings took place at Scotland Yard. *Always much anticipated by the candidates, it was nonetheless a nervy (rather use anxious?) time in each policeman’s life. Written examinations had occurred beforehand, and for those who’d passed these and had served the required time in their current ranks, it was then down to the final stage of personal interviews by the board officers.
Applicants from the various sections at the Yard appeared separately over a period of three days: namely Homicide, Crimes of Violence, Fraud, and Breaking and Entry. There were four candidates from Homicide: D/I Allan Skelton, Detective Sergeants Matthew Rundle, Alfred West and Lyall Hendry, as well as D/Cst Richard Avery. They were all confident ahead of their interviews because of the successful investigation of the Iain MacKinnon saga. Detective Chief Superintendent William Stratford, already a commissioned officer, was not a candidate; his promotion prospects would be decided by the Police Commissioner and other senior officers.
The interviews of Matt Rundle, Alf West, Lyall Hendry and Dick Avery took place first. Their questioning was frank but also affable and the four detectives had left the interview room in good spirits.
Allan Skelton’s time in front of the board was a little different. He was duly praised for his part in the arrest of Iain MacKinnon during Queen Victoria’s celebrations in June 1897, and naturally for his leadership of his men in the pursuit of MacKinnon after he’d escaped from Newgate Prison. Under his command Lyall Hendry and Dick Avery had managed to account for MacKinnon; it was unfortunate, he was told, that he’d not been able to be with them until the end because of the accidental injury he’d suffered while en route to the Transvaal Republic. Nods of approval came when his discovery that MacKinnon was the illegitimate son of the Queen was brought up, and he was lauded for his excellent detective work in that respect. It was a pity that Patrick Rogan had not been found, he was told. Skelton’s response was that the case was still open and would be further addressed as soon as possible.
(Purely remarks: I have no idea what was “proper”, yet the “Victorian” Times are known to have been extremely staid, conservative and puritanical. Would it ever have been “allowed” to make it known, had the queen been “guilty” of such a Deed. Even if it came out, would it be “allowed” for officers of the law to publicly discuss this and would an officer be Publicly lauded for such a dastardly deed as to shame his monarch, THE QUEEN, nogal ?? I know it is too late too question it now as the Victoria book revealed it all and it was accepted. I just thought this does not gel with history itself, but then this is not an historical novel – – -and so a waffle forth.)
Naturally he was questioned about his aspirations at Scotland Yard, and his reply was that he intended to make a meaningful career in the police and reach a high commissioned rank. Yes, he was fully fit again after his injury. Yes, he had a happy home life and was proud of an understanding wife and loving son. No, he had no active sporting life but was a keen spectator at football and cricket matches. No, he had no hobbies other than reading, fishing and hiking whenever he had the opportunity. Although he answered honestly and confidently, Allan seemed to sense an underlying mood of dubiety among the board officers. He couldn’t put his finger on it but the feeling persisted. Sometimes it was the way the questions were asked, and at other times there were small nuances and possibly uncertain facial expressions. He wondered what Chief Stratford had written in his report to the board.
At the end of the interview, the chairman who was a Deputy Commissioner stood and thanked him for his application for promotion. An announcement would be made shortly, he said. His hand was shaken by each of the five officers and Allan left with more misgivings than confidence. He’d entered the interview with the clear target of a commission. Now he wondered what the outcome would be. ~ The chairman of the promotions board was Deputy Commissioner (Crime and Security) Jonathan Evans, a career policeman approaching the retirement age of 55 years. He’d once had hopes of making the top notch but knew that politics would count him out as he was a Welshman – not English if you please! This had fluffed up his feathers ever so much, with the result that he’d become antagonistic towards any ‘so-called’ improvement or innovations in Scotland Yard that did not appeal to him. One could actually call him a ‘rogue’ officer who opposed any changes to ‘the order’. Once the applications for promotion had been studied and discussed, he turned to his fellow officers – two Assistant Commissioners and two Chief Superintendents: all of them English.
“Gentleman, I have no problem with any of the candidates – except one.” The faces around him showed some surprise and here and there were raised eyebrows. “Let me explain,” said Evans. “Allan Skelton is a fine detective with an unblemished record. He’s now 37 years old and came to fame for arresting Iain MacKinnon when he tried to kill Queen Victoria last year. His team since then accounted for MacKinnon in South Africa after a protracted investigation. For that we must give him due congratulation – as reported in glowing terms by his commanding officer Chief Superintendent Stratford at the award ceremony. However…” he paused stroking his moustache. “He did not do the job himself – the men who did it were much younger and perhaps more able.” Another pause: “Skelton is being blown up as a blue-eyed boy… a new commissioner, I hear. I don’t believe that he should be commissioned yet. I have a problem with his character. He needs to be tested further… see if he can take it in the right spirit to merely make the one step up to Chief Inspector.”
“What problem do you foresee with his character?” asked one of the men who’d had many dealings with Skelton. Evans sniffed into his kerchief. “I don’t believe he’s got the staying power. Everything looks fine and rosy for him, sometimes to his credit. So far we haven’t seen him really on the back foot under pressure, to coin a phrase.” “So why pull the man back from what he actually deserves?”
“He still has about eighteen years before he can retire. And don’t forget he would overtake other men who are senior in rank to him. There’s something not quite right… I feel it in my bones. He’s a man who could slip over the edge… go from great… down to just another pretender.”
The four men around him either blinked or ran their fingers across their eyebrows and glanced at each other. Were they listening to reason or some sort of crazy fantasy? For long moments there was silence. Evans took a sip of water and waited.
Eventually one of the Assistant Commissioners cleared his throat. “Jonathan, you speak a good piece. I’ll go along with you for now – promote him to Chief Inspector, still in charge of the Homicide section on a trial period of two years without him knowing such. We know how quickly time passes. His reaction should tell us something – good or bad.”
Evans tilted his head. “Thank you. Do we have agreement?” He looked at the other officers. After another period of silence there were no objections. ~ Five days later the promotion results were announced, together with some restructuring and transfers. Chief Stratford – who had not been a member of the board – would remain in his rank, but would from then on be responsible for both the Homicide and Crimes of Violence sections: the latter comprised robbery, serious assaults and sexual crimes which were every so often related to murder. In consequence the two sections worked closely together when necessary.
Inspector Allan Skelton was promoted to Detective Chief Inspector and remained head of a newly expanded Homicide section. D/Sgt Alfred West was promoted to Detective Inspector and would be his number two. D/Sgt Matthew Rundle also made that rank and was transferred to Crimes of Violence.
Lyall Hendry also gained promotion to Detective Inspector in Homicide, but with the option to return to Scotland in that rank. D/Cst Richard Avery was promoted to Detective Sergeant, also to stay in Homicide. Three new probationer detectives joined them there. To the surprise of many, the vacant post of Detective Superintendent in Homicide remained unfilled. Why? ~ All the successful candidates repaired to the canteen at Scotland Yard for the customary celebratory drinks. Midst the congratulations and cheerful badinage, Allan Skelton tried to keep a smile on his face. His lack of promotion to commissioned rank had come as a major shock to him; he’d been highly confident, at the age of 37, that he would make it. Why had the vacant post not been filled? He kept asking himself the question. The disappointment began to grow into a tight knot in his stomach and even a couple of whiskies did not alleviate it. After less than half an hour, he excused himself and went to his office.
He sat behind his desk, staring at the blotter with clenched fists. Why only to Chief Inspector? It seemed like a sop. What did the Board – or even Chief Stratford – have against him? Surely it wasn’t the non-arrest of Patrick Rogan? The lack of answers only served to deepen his resentment. He’d shown his mettle over the years and deserved more, he felt strongly. What the hell! He had several neat whiskies from his drawer while he moped and his mood changed to one of almost vicious anger. It was dark when he left his office. Almost in a daze, brought on by the whisky and everything else, he took a train to his home in Camden. During the journey the feeling of indignation grew even stronger and he was in a deeply morose and cantankerous mood when he arrived.
His wife Catherine spotted it at once. The way he threw his hat and overcoat on a chair was a clear sign of trouble. His face was like a piece of stone. “What’s with you, love?” she asked tenderly, moving forward to touch his hand. “They’ve given me the cold shoulder… promotion to Chief Inspector only! I deserve more!” he spat out. He went to the drinks cabinet and poured half a glass of whisky. He slurped it down in a matter of a few seconds then threw the empty glass into the fireplace. It shattered into many pieces and he sat glaring at her. She wasn’t quite sure what to do. Then she went to stroke his cheek. But he turned to her with venom in his eyes and slapped her hand away. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. “Why take it out on me?” she whispered. He stood up and staggered sideways. He leant against the fireplace, his face suffusing. “You’re like the rest of them!” His voice was slurred. “Nobody’s on my s-shide… I’ve worked myself to the bone with no re-recognition! Now I sit for who knows how long as a bluddy Chief Inspector!”
She moved forward. “Allan, stop this at once! You’re behaving liked a lunatic!” She tried to get closer but he shoved her away. “Don’t come close… I love you as my wife. This is something I have to work out for m-myself… y-you can’t help. It’s all up to me now….” His voice began to evanesce. “I’ll f-find a way to get those bastards back…” He slumped down in front of the hearth and started snoring. With a feeling of foreboding she decided to leave him there and went to bed alone for the first time in their marriage. Thank God their son Robert was asleep. When he awoke early morning on the floor with a blinding headache, nausea and a terrible thirst, Allan reeled to the bathroom and spoke into the big white telephone (Remember most of mine are onlysuggestions. This visual of the telephone is perhaps far too ‘modern’ for this period tale?) His guts really knew what his problem was. Having partially recovered by drinking as much water as he could and merely half-smiling at Catherine, he phoned in sick to Scotland Yard (perhaps introduce some ‘time lapse’, it sounds like he still stands checking his blood shot eyes in the b/room when all of a sudden his wife is There holding wireless phone for him to use) , almost the first time he’d done so for as long as he could remember.
He said he’d been struck down by the dreaded influenza. ( a guy who passes out on the carpet wakes up after a few hrs, mostly from his painful position, in his case it would be about , what 2 – 3 a.m. Fill it in:) Later, after refusing breakfast, sipping at a second coffe (tea?) he managed to greet Robert with a subdued, “Go well at school, son.” For the rest of the day he lay on his bed, his mind churning – wondering what lay in store for him at Scotland Yard. Or was there something else he could do with his natural talents? Later he had a sandwich that he made for himself. Catherine still didn’t know what to do or say, so she left him on his own. She and Robert ate their evening supper alone and she explained to the boy that his father was still feeling poorly. Her brow was furrowed as she heard Allan snoring almost loud enough to lift the roof. ~ Allan Skelton eventually returned to work two days later. Inspector Alf West had managed the work load in his absence. There were few new cases that required Allan’s attention and all looked quite fine. His binge now forgotten, he sat at his desk facing the River Thames, his brow lined and his hands quite still as he examined the matters under investigation.
It was late afternoon when Lyall Hendry asked to see him. “Come in, Lyall, and have a cuppa.” They sat in chairs away from the desk, more informal as they sipped the strong brew.
“What’s on your mind, young man?” Hendry let out a deep breath. “Actually I don’t really know how to say this…” The pause was a long one. “I’m putting in my resignation from the police… now, here, it’s in writing.” He passed over an envelope and leant back, eyeing Skelton. Allan didn’t quite know how to react. He sat slumped. Here was the man who’d knocked off Iain MacKinnon midst major acclaim – and he’d got a medal and a commendation! What the hell was this?
There was silence for long moments as each stared at the other. Eventually Hendry spoke in an even tone. “I’m still a young man. My future is not in the police… please try to understand where I’m coming from. My father named Fletcher,” he lied, “was killed during the Indian Mutiny… my mother Evelyn was divorced from him before that hence the name Hendry, her maiden name… that’s why she assumed that name and called me after it.” He sighed for a moment as he watched Skelton’s eyes. “It so happens that she’s received an inheritance from her deceased parents… not a large sum but enough for us to go into business together. The police gratuity on resignation and the money I received with the medal and commendation helps a little.” He stopped, awaiting a response.
There was a pause as Skelton’s moustache twitched. “What the hell! You’ve got it made in the force! No inheritance can make up for that… you’ve got a whole life – a career – ahead of you. How can you make a future out of some puny inheritance that you seem to indicate is enough? Or is there something more?” His eyes bore into the younger man’s. “The inheritance is not that trivial, sir. My mother’s parents ran a profitable butchery business in Aberdeen. You may have heard of Angus beef? That’s one area we’re looking at.” Allan sniffed but he had to (
be?) get to the point. “Of course, lad… but this all seems so sudden. Are you sure that’s the way you want to go?” Deep down he had a sense that there was a whole lot more to the matter. But what, he wondered? “Yes sir, my mind’s made up. I can’t let my mother down now… it’s been a pleasure serving under you, sir. I really would like you to become Commissioner one day… you’ve taught me a helluva lot.” As he said it, he was sorry that he’d made it sound like flattery.
Skelton let out a longer breath. Something in his mind brought back a mood of depression about his own situation, but at the same time he was more than a little intrigued by what Hendry had been telling him. A question stood up – what had really happened in South Africa? He needed to discover what it was and it wouldn’t come from Hendry, so much he knew. He had to find another way.
“Very well, Inspector,” said Allan formally. “I shall submit your resignation today. In terms of police regulations of course, you will have to serve another three months. That will take us until the Easter weekend. If you like, should I recommend that you serve out your time in Scotland?” Hendry smiled and extended his hand. “Thank you, sir… that would suit me fine.” He stood and left. Allan sat watching him depart. Already a plan was developing in his mind. He needed to find the end of whatever rainbow existed. No man in Hendry’s situation would resign without some sort of pot of gold at the end of it. ~ Skelton began his enquiries in the most obvious place: D/Sgt Dick Avery who’d been Hendry’s only colleague in South Africa. The day after Hendry resigned, Skelton called Avery to his office. “Close the door and pull up a chair, Dick. We need to talk.”
Avery nodded and they sat near the window. Beams of weak sunlight sneaked inside the room, but these failed to increase the chilly winter temperature. (it feels you refer to the whole Country’s temperature. Perhaps : ‘ Failed to warm the chilly winter air?’ – inside the room) The young sergeant sat waiting. Skelton began. “Have you heard that Lyall Hendry has submitted his resignation?’ The other man’s eyes grew wide in astonishment. “Well no, sir… why?” he asked. “That’s what I thought you might be able to tell me, young man. He says his mother’s received an inheritance and they’re going into business in Aberdeen. Do you know anything about that?” Avery swallowed. “No sir, definitely not… a big surprise this is.”
Skelton leant forward, his eyes intense. “But you were close to him throughout the mission in South Africa… keeping surveillance on MacKinnon and Rogan until the final moments. Surely he must have given you some idea? Even afterwards on the ship back to England?” From Skelton’s tone, Avery felt like a suspect under interrogation. “N-no sir,” he answered with a slight stammer. “He kept very much to himself… h-he’s that sort of person… never said a word about his future.” “Did he ever talk about his mother – or his father, for that matter?” Avery licked his lips lightly as he thought. “Not really. He said his mother had been a nurse in India, that’s all I remember. And oh yes, he said his father had been killed in the Indian mutiny while he was still a baby.” Skelton looked at him long and hard. Not much help yet he thought. Let’s dig a little deeper. “During our initial debriefing you said you were keeping observations at Newcastle railway station in case MacKinnon and Rogan appeared there, right?’ (this phrase sounds ‘unsuitable’. Someone/something is kept ‘under’ observation. I could not find a ruling on your use. Your opinion?) “Yes sir.”
“So describe the exact circumstances in which you finally met up with Mr. Hendry.” Dick felt even more uneasy. What was the point of this questioning? He cleared his throat and began. “On that day the south-bound train from Johannesburg had already passed through early in the morning… I saw nobody of interest, certainly not anyone fitting the descriptions of MacKinnon or Rogan, getting off or onto the train. So I went back to sit in the teashop waiting for the next train due much later.” He paused, noticing Skelton’s stern expression. “It was towards midday that I saw the figure of a man walking south alongside the line towards the station. As he got nearer, I saw that it was Mr. Hendry. So I went out along the tracks to meet him.”
Skelton’s eyes narrowed. “Tell me everything: how was he dressed, what was he carrying, and what did he say?” Avery tugged at an earlobe. Why the hell was he asking all these questions? “He was wearing old worn clothes – trousers, shirt and jacket – which he told me later were part of his disguise at Johannesburg railway station. His pockets were bulging… and over his shoulder he carried an improvised bundle made out of another blood-stained jacket buttoned up and with the cuffs tied. He said it was MacKinnon’s and it also looked heavy. Later he showed *me the two revolvers that were inside it… his own and MacKinnon’s. These (those?) he gave ( to perhaps leave out, unless u mean to emphasise, he gave it to ME) me for safekeeping.” A nod came from Skelton before he spoke. “Now, Dick,” he said more sociably, “What did Mr Hendry say?”
“He said that he was bluddy exhausted, sir, been awake all night and a long walk along the railway line,” he answered with a tight smile. “He told me that he’d found MacKinnon in the foothills south of the mountain and killed him in a shoot out. Then he buried him. MacKinnon had jumped from the train during the night as it slowed down and Mr. Hendry had followed. That’s about it, sir.” “You were obviously pleased at the outcome? Praised him did you?” “Naturally, but he was very circumspect. He smiled and hardly said anything else.” “Did he tell you about whatever else he was carrying?” Avery shook his head. “No sir, and he being a senior man I couldn’t question him.”
“So what happened next?” “We went to the teashop and he had a meal and plenty of tea. Then I took him to my room at the hotel in town. On the way he bought new clothes and a travelling bag.” “How did he pay?” “He had some English money in one of his pockets. We both had cash, sir.” Skelton was quiet for a short while, lightly drumming his fingers on the side of his chair. “What happened then?” “At the hotel he went to the bathroom with the new bag and clothes and also the bloody jacket. After he’d bathed he came out wearing the new clothes and with the new bag containing whatever had been in his pockets and in the old jacket. He’d bundled up his old clothes and MacKinnon’s jacket. Before going to sleep he went to the back of the hotel and dumped these in a rubbish bin… he said there was no point in keeping them.”
Skelton’s thoughts began to churn. Why the secrecy? “So you never found out what Mr. Hendry had in his pockets and in the old jacket?” Avery blinked. Why the hell was he on this track? Why was it so important that he know what Hendry had in his possession at that time? “No, sir… as I said it wasn’t my place to ask. The only thing I ever saw was money – on the train to Durban and then by sea back to England.” Skelton let out a long breath. Avery wasn’t going to be of much more help. Yet Allan was ninety-nine percent certain that Hendry had been in possession of something that he didn’t want anyone else to know about – something that had in all likelihood come from MacKinnon. He became more and more intrigued as the seconds ticked by. He would do his *damnedest to find out in time what it was. Inwardly he felt that he was entitled to do so.
Eventually he said, “Thanks Dick, you’ve been most helpful, you may go now. And I’d be pleased if you kept this conversation confidential.” Avery stood and nodded. “Will do, sir.” He felt totally confused but also suspicious about Skelton’s motives.