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This e-book was made by papachanjo, but was not scanned by me. Thanks to the original uploader.
I am trying to create at least an ample collection of all the John Creasey books which are in the excess of 500 novels. Having read and possess just a meager 10 of his books does not qualify me to be a fan but the 10 I read were enough for me to rake up some effort to scan and create these e-books.
If you happen to have any John Creasey book and would like to add to the free online collection which I’m hoping to bring together, you can do the following:
Scan the book in greyscale
Save as djvu - use the free DJVU SOLO software to compress the images
Send it to my e-mail: [email protected]
I’ll do the rest and will add a note of credit in the finished document.
from back cover
‘The finest of all Scotland Yard Series’ — New York Times
It is June, London basks in the sun, Londoners and visitors look forward to the great sporting events of the summer. But each presents Scotland Yard with its own particular challenge.
The Derby — will there be an attempt to ‘fix’ the greatest race of the year?
Lords — will the appearance of the South African team trigger off political demonstrations?
Wimbledon — will something happen to prevent a young American negro from battling through to the top?
Headaches for Commander George Gideon, problems that he must cope with. And what of his own private problems: Has he been too much of a cop and not enough of a husband and father? And has he walked too long beside a crooked path to trust a granger’s smile?
‘Mr. Marric — weaves a continuous exiting narrative which gives the impression of perfect authenticity’
I am most grateful to Major A. D. Mills, Secretary and Treasurer of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, who not only showed me round the famous “Wimbledon”, but also read the manuscript of this book and put me right on many details.
Note: This book was already in proof form when threats were made to ‘demonstrate’ during the M.C.C.’s 1970 Test Matches against South Africa. I should hate anyone to think that anything in this book is either cause or effect!
Table of Contents
George Gideon, Commander of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Metropolitan Police in London, pushed back the chair in his .office overlooking the River Thames, wiped his neck and dabbed his forehead with a big handkerchief, and stepped to the window. It was one of those windless, airless days, outside as well as in, when no window seemed large enough and certainly none opened half as far as it should. A very big man, massive of neck and shoulder, with a belly like a board and a torso of exceptional thickness and strength, he felt the heat more than most, and was as exasperated by it as anyone. Yet as he stood at the window and looked across the bright, sunlit surface of the water, his mood mellowed.
What a wonderful place London was!
The moment a heat-wave “struck, the city became through its river a home of pageantry. Launches, offering trips as far up as Hampton Court and Richmond and way down beyond London Bridge, looked as if their owners had been furiously busy overnight, dabbing bright paint and hanging gay little flags. Launches, sculls, rowing-boats, even two or three colourful sails, changed the workaday river to a pleasure playground for tens of thousands: every boat in sight was crammed. The little flags fluttering in the boat-made breeze above the great stretch of water gave an illusion of coolness.
This weather had lasted, now, for five days and it was still only May: that alone would be memorable, in London. In recent years, even June had seldom flamed and temperatures had regularly fallen lower and rain more heavily than either ever should.
London in the summer had its special problems, too, and the police as well as criminals known, unknown, or in the making, old lags and first offenders, were all affected. For the moment, Gideon was not thinking of those problems. But there was a file on his desk marked Outdoor Events, June and he had already glanced through it and would again before discussing it next morning with officers of the C.I.D. as well as other branches, mostly from the Civil Department. As tomorrow was the first of June, this session was at least a week late, largely because all departments had been forced to concentrate, in mid-May, on a state visit.
Now, he was thinking just of his beloved London.
A telephone rang-one which came through the Yard’s switchboard. He turned reluctantly, to pick it up. His movements were slow and deliberate, distinctly affected by the heat.
“Mr. Lemaitre would like a word with you, sir.”
“Put him through,” said Gideon.
His reaction to a call from Lemaitre, now the Superintendent in charge of one of the East End divisions. — perhaps London’s toughest — was different from his reaction to a call from any other officer. Lemaitre had once shared this room; acting as his deputy, sitting at a desk now pushed into a corner and used for files and a set of Police Gazettes from the first number, in 1786, when it had been called Hue and Cry. And whatever his shortcomings, which most certainly existed, Lemaitre was a warm personality; shrewd and loyal almost to a fault. There were times when Gideon missed him, and this was one of those times,
“What is it, Lem?”
“Gotta bitta news for you,” stated Lemaitre, in happy certainty.
“I hope its good,” said Gideon, cautiously.
“Good — and hot!” Lemaitre assured him. “George, there’s going to be wholesale doping of Derby runners. And I mean wholesale!” He laughed on a raucous note. “Be really something, wouldn’t it, if one, two and three were all disqualified?”
Two things were already ringing warning bells in Gideon’s mind. One, that Lemaitre was almost excited, which probably meant that he had only just heard this ‘news’ and hadn’t checked it yet. Two, that any such widespread doping was highly improbable.
“It certainly would be a sensation,” he conceded. “Might just as well not run the race at all.” He was already checking tie actual date. At one time, the Derby had been run on the first Wednesday in June, come what may; now, it varied from — year to year. Ah, there it was: Saturday, June 23rd, just over three weeks ahead. “Where’d you hear the rumour?” he asked.
“A runner for Jackie Spratt’s. No need to worry, George, it’s hot. He was coming over from New York on the QE 2 — landed two days ago. He picked it up on board. All absolutely certain, corroborated, the McCoy! I’m seeing the runner myself, tonight.”
“The Old Steps, Limehouse.”
Gideon was tempted to utter a word of warning, but checked himself. There were a lot of things that senior C.I.D. men would be wiser not to do, but the urge to be en the look-out for a job to handle oneself was sometimes irresistible. He had learned this to his cost, and Lemaitre wasn’t a young beginner: he knew what he was doing.
“Get chapter and verse, Lem,” he allowed himself to urge.
“Trust me!” said Lemaitre, with almost cocky confidence. “Like me to come along and report, in the morning?”
“Check with me first,” Gideon told him. “I’d like to see you but there may be too many briefings. Call about ten o’clock.”
“Right. Oh, by the way, George — what day was summer last year?”
Gideon put down the receiver, pretending not to hear. He felt a flash of exasperation; that kind of facetious humour was Lemaitre’s speciality and, in the right mood, it could be funny, but Gideon wasn’t in the right mood. He had just been glowing at the thought of London’s loveliness; just been recalling the glorious summers of his boyhood. He smiled wryly to himself. Did one always remember the good and forget the bad, in one’s past?
The question answered itself even as he asked it, bringing to mind in successive flashbacks two schoolday incidents. One, an occasion when he had been caned and humiliated for writing ‘dirty’ words on a wash-room door — and two of the words he had never even heard of! He had been absolutely guilt-free. The boy who had been guilty had let him suffer the punishment; and afterwards, in the playground, he had jeered: “Bloody fool, that’s what you are! If you knew it was me, why the hell didn’t you say so?”
To this day, in such a mood as he was now, the old injustice still had the power to hurt; well, perhaps not really hurt, but certainly it still brought a feeling of heavy-hearted-ness, a sense of dismay at the existence of unrightable wrongs.
The other memory, something quite different, was of the one and only time he had been selected to play for the school First Eleven — and the cricket match had been rained off. He had never forgotten how unutterably miserable he had been. Such things had at least enabled him to share the hurts and disappointments and frustrations of his children, but he could still feel some of that old, aching awareness that he had been robbed of a chance which had never come again.
Suddenly, he gave a snort of laughter.
“What the devil am I sentimentalising about?” he demanded, of the empty office. “I ought to be checking Lem’s story!” He sat down at his desk again, and made a note about Jackie Spratt’s runner and the doping of Derby horses.
Jackie Spratt’s was the name of a large book-making firm, started by a long-dead father and now operated by three brothers. Each of the brothers was a public school product; each in his own way was clever. The firm had become a vast concern, with hundreds of betting shops throughout the country, but its headquarters were still in the East End.
Gideon, who was not a gambling man but would have an occasional flutter, had no strong opinions on the rights and wrongs of betting; his job was to maintain the law. Since the new Gaming Act, with licensed betting-shops everywhere, there had been few problems with street runners, but many more — and usually serious — problems with the smart new casinos, while the slot machines, too, had their ‘protectors’ and their rackets.
These were general issues, but Jackie Spratt’s was a problem on its own. There was no proof but good reason to believe that the three brothers were behind a great deal of fixing’ and corruption, particularly involving horse-racing and boxing. No doping case had ever been traced back to them; no boxer who had thrown a fight led back to them. Yet everybody “knew’ the truth. They were a parasitic growth on the body of sport.
One day, Gideon and the Yard persuaded themselves, Jackie Spratt’s would go too far-and it was conceivable mat day would come with this year’s Derby. Lemaitre, however, was notably possessed of a facile optimism which discouraged Gideon from setting too much store by such a hope. For the moment, he pushed it to the back of his mind.
He looked through the file, with great deliberation. Even sitting there, he was perspiring. The day was not only airless but very humid. His handkerchief became a damp ball; fee could almost have wrung it out. Tossing it aside, he shrugged himself out of his jacket-a medium-weight one •which felt winter-heavy at this temperature.
“It must be ninety!” he grumbled, almost indignantly.
He felt a little cooler in his shirt-sleeves, but his braces in the middle of his back. The telephone rang several times, each call about some trifle, and his palm soon grew sticky with handling the receiver. He loosened his tie, and almost as his collar sagged, the door opened with a perfunctory tap and the Commissioner came in.
The Commissioner at Scotland Yard was like royalty, and Gideon was immediately and acutely conscious of being in his shirt and braces, and so sticky that sweat actually rolled down his cheeks. He pushed his chair back and rose as the door closed. The Commissioner, in a pale grey over-check suit, looked as cool as if he had stepped out of an ice-box, as immaculate as if he had come straight from his tailor.
It was months since he had been near Gideon’s office.
“Good afternoon, Commander.”
“Good afternoon, sir.” Gideon pushed back his thick iron-grey hair and rounded the desk to move an armchair forward. Its casters stuck in a threadbare patch of carpet and he had to fight back the impulse to use brute strength. He eased it clear and pushed it into position.
“Thanks.” Scott-Marie sat down and draped one long leg over the other. “Have you had time to study the belated programme of outdoor events in London for June?”
“Not to study it, sir,” Gideon said. “I was looking through it as you came in.” He sat down, wretchedly conscious of his bright green braces and the dampness at his neck and arms. But to put on his coat would not only reveal his embarrassment: it would be difficult, being so damp, to slip it on easily. He tried to forget that it was hanging on the back of his chair.
He had a great respect and regard for Sir Reginald Scott-Marie, and they were on good terms. Yet the fact remained that the only time Gideon really felt at ease with him, was when he was at the Commissioner’s home.
“I’ve just looked through it, too,” Scott-Marie told him, as he was wondering whether to mention Lemaitre’s tip about the Derby situation, and deciding not to; it was best only to tell Scott-Marie of facts, — or at least fully-substantiated evidence.
“Does anything in particular worry you?”
Gideon frowned. He looked slow-thinking, almost bull-like, but in fact the headings of the listed events were chasing one another rapidly and accurately through his mind. Golf at Richmond . . . the South African cricket team here on tour . . . Wimbledon, even more of a crowd-puller now that it was open to professionals as well as amateurs . . . racing at Ascot and a dozen other places near London, quite apart from Derby week at Epsom. The air display at Farnborough, in Surrey, too, would mean crowds at the London stations . . . other tennis fixtures . . . polo . . . at least two major athletics meetings . . . a Commonwealth tournament at the White City, and a European one at Wembley. There was also dog-racing, speedway and motor racing, in or near London. But none of these gave him any slightest inkling of what Scott-Marie meant.
“No,” he answered at last. “Not in particular, sir.” Then a thought flashed into his mind. “Unless the South Africans, at Lords—?”
Scott-Marie’s expression lost its severity. Gideon noticed this and also noticed a beading of sweat on the Commissioner’s own forehead, particularly where the hair grew back to make a sharp widow’s peak.