Well, That’s Alright Then!

A Short Story by Ken Wise

It was snowing as Kevin Bell left the building of Charles E French for the last time, his P-45 securely lodged in his inside coat pocket. He pulled the collar of his overcoat closer to his exposed neck, cursing silently that he had left his scarf at home. That was a particularly silly thing to do, considering that the country was in a grip of a November winter cold spell which was particularly harsh for that time of year.

It was also a bad time for him to lose his job as salesman for Charles E French, stationers, a company he had worked for after leaving school at the age of fifteen. He had built his way up to being their main salesman due mainly to the fact he was the only one.

The day had started as any other, with him trudging into his office after parking his Morris Minor approximately two miles away, thus enabling him to avoid the car parking charges which had, like most items in the year 1962, increased in price.

He had not had time to have his usual first cup of office coffee when he had been summoned to the office of Mr Isaac Bland, the company’s chief accountant. It had been Mr Bland who had taken him on fifteen years ago, as office boy. He had even led the young Kevin around to the bank the company used, in order that he could deposit his first monthly pay cheque of twenty pounds less tax.

In Mr Bland’s view everything had to be conducted in a certain manner, and it was only right that Kevin Bell, office boy-cum-tea-boy, had to be introduced properly to the Chief Clerk of the Bank, a Mr Joseph Latham. In the young Kevin’s eyes Mr Latham’s demeanour reminded him distinctly of Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

That seemed a long time ago as Kevin made his way upstairs to the inner sanctum which housed all the important persons working for Charles E French. This unfortunately did not include salesman such as Kevin Bell, due to the fact that the company still looked upon sales persons as necessary evils who had to be employed these days solely due to the sign of the times. No longer could one rely on the old method of replacement orders coming in on a regular basis now that Isaac Bland’s old cronies from other companies had left or passed away.

What did the old goat want? Kevin pondered, as he tapped on the door of the accountant’s room. He was producing reasonable sales and as far as he knew they were up on last month’s figures.

The reply was short and sweet ‘Enter’. Kevin did as he was bid and soon he was standing opposite the large desk of the chief accountant, a desk littered with papers and files of all natures. Kevin wondered how much was work and just how much was placed there solely for effect.

‘Oh thanks for coming, Bell’. He made no effort to invite Kevin to sit down which he would normally do when he held his monthly sales meeting with him. ‘I’ll come straight to the point Bell, we have to let you go’……The platitudes which followed were lost on Kevin after hearing those final words …let you go. After years of solid work at French’s he was now being dismissed! He had been as far as he knew a good reliable worker for the company; he had never received a bad word or comment from any of the bosses including Mr Bland. His thoughts came back to reality and he felt himself putting out his hand to receive a brown envelope which, he was informed, contained his P-45, and holiday pay, potential bonus and a bit extra!

Mr Bland left his chair and walked to the door, opened it and ushered the stunned Kevin out…just like that!

From start to finish it had taken just four minutes and twenty seconds, give or take a few seconds. Kevin walked back to his office and started collecting all his personal things. Everybody was there, all the office girls in the typing pool, the tea boys, now two, which seemed to indicate that things were not as bad financially as Mr Bland had suggested. After all when he started all those years ago Kevin had to cover the whole building, a task he managed to accomplish successfully within the allotted time of one hour and ten minutes. Kevin looked around at the faces of his soon to be ex-co-workers. They all seemed to know what had happened, and as far as Kevin was concerned, were all taking it extremely well. Eunice, his girlfriend of two years came up to him and touched his arm with some hint of compassion. Did she also know? The answer seemed to be yes; although they had been out to the pictures the night before, Eunice, one of the secretaries to one of the senior bosses, had said nothing.

That had been nice of her!

Surprisingly the personal possessions were small and he managed to place all of these into his inside raincoat pocket. He found as he left the office area that conveniently every one of his fellow workers just happened to be looking the other way! Of Eunice; there was no sign.

Good grief, Kevin thought, it was almost as if he had suddenly contracted the plague or something. There for the sake of ………

Kevin trudged around to his bank and stood in line to deposit his final pay cheque from Charles E French, Stationers to the Queen, or so the sign over the front door said. Kevin had often wondered about that; as he for one had never taken any orders or delivered any stationery to the Palace, which everyone knew was in London. Charles E French was situated in Bristol, so it must have been delivered by train, if at all!

Kevin found to his dismay that when his turn came it was Mr Scrooge, sorry, Latham who would serve him. He had heard that Mr Latham had recently been ‘demoted’ back to the counter, perhaps showing that his previous rise to power had been a bit premature to say the least.

‘They didn’t do you bad then Bell; Three hundred and twenty five pounds, seven and sixpence, some people would love to have half of that now.’

Kevin could not believe it; even the darn bank clerk knew about his sudden demise from the company! Ignoring the remark Kevin asked politely ‘I would like to draw some cash today please.’ Mr Latham put on a hurt look ‘I’m sorry Mr Bell but it will take three days for this cheque to clear.’ Kevin could not believe his ears ‘but it is drawn on the company’s account which you have here, you know it will not bounce!’ Kevin protested. Mr Latham went on ‘I do realise that Mr Bell, but the bank has procedures which have to be adhered to’ Kevin was about to explode but Mr Latham had an suggestion, ‘I’ll tell you what, Bell, I will call your Mr Bland and ask him what he thinks.’ With that he left his cash desk and disappeared from sight. Kevin stood rooted to the spot, his mouth wide open; surely this was a wind-up? Was it April the First, or was it Candid Camera playing their tricks? Mr Latham went away leaving the speechless Kevin; he came back with a satisfying smile or was it a smirk? ‘Mr Bland suggests we let you have the £25.7.6 to keep you going, he says you would only spend it all!’ Kevin was still speechless; the old goat was still even trying to control him from his dusty old office just around the corner. Kevin meekly accepted the twenty five pounds and seven and sixpence from the smirking Latham. Kevin knew he was being fed an untruth by this extremely dislikeable individual, but not wishing to draw even more attention to his present plight of losing his job, he decided to go along with it. Anyway, he was only going to withdraw twenty pounds in the first place. Kevin wondered what he had done to this surly individual for him to react that way; Kevin had always joked with all the other staff when he had made his weekly visitations to the bank. Perhaps, Kevin appearing to be too happy was something Latham disliked about him! Oh well, it only underlined that Kevin’s previous impressions of Mr Latham being a Scrooge had been correct all those years ago. First impressions normally turn out to be correct!

Leaving the bank Kevin was pleased to find that the snow had now stopped but it was with a dispirited step that he made his way back to the parked Morris Minor which by now had frozen windows, front and back. Scraping off the ice and snow took Kevin a further half an hour before he was able to drive back to his house which was just outside the city of Bristol. He knew upon his arrival that his mother would have something to say about the loss of his job but the real inquisition would come from his father. Kevin’s mother’a remarks where surprisingly supportive, telling him that he would soon get another job. Kevin’s father, Albert, was more scathing, insinuating that Kevin had obviously done something wrong to upset that poor Mr Bland. Albert went on ‘You will have to get another job or you will have to get rid of that car of yours!’ Albert Bell still rode his bike back and forth to work at the Bristol Docks; maybe he might have just resented his son a little, being able to drive everywhere.

Not that Kevin had been skimpy, using the car to take his parents to Weymouth on holiday with him and his girlfriend Eunice. He had also been ready to run his mother back and forth to Bingo when able, as far as Kevin was concerned he could not be faulted on sharing his car.

Kevin suddenly realised that he had just filled up with petrol the night before and he had not been able to claim it back from the company.

One thing for sure, he would not be going back to the company to claim the amount of three pounds and six shillings.

The next day, the first stop for Kevin would have to be the Unemployment Office, which was situated just around the corner from the offices of Charles E French. Kevin had never ever been into the unemployment offices and he felt a little ashamed as he entered the rather untidy offices which consisted of several desks with stern-looking individuals sitting behind them.

Kevin took the number twenty five, from the reel of numbers which was conveniently positioned as you entered the building.

One hour passed and suddenly the number twenty five was called, followed by the name Kelly! Kevin eagerly went to the position which had called his number. ‘I guess that is me, but my name is not Kelly’

‘Oh no, that is mine’ came the reply. Kevin looked blankly at the man who was now looking at his notes. ‘Oh, I see you have received some money in lieu of notice, which, of course, will not allow you to claim any unemployment benefit.’ replied Stan Kelly with a matter of fact, monotonous tone.

Stan Kelly continued ‘That was not a bad cash settlement you received Kevin, a lot of people would like that!’ Kevin just sat, his mouth open; again he was being lectured by some official who seemingly was saying that he never had it so good! After all, he was the one out of work, not the two people who had been admiring his separation payout.

‘Well,’ went on the now smiling Mr Kelly, ‘this must be your lucky day.’

‘It is?’ enquired the now surprised Kevin, at last, something would seem to be going well.

‘Yes, a local company are looking for a capable person to run their office and you could suit them right down to the ground,’ exclaimed a now jubilant Kelly. Kevin was pleased of a job offer so soon, but he had to point out that he had never really run an office; if it was anything like the one he had just left he was not sure he even wanted to!

Again, things seemed to go at slow motion with Kelly now thrusting into Kevin’s hand a card which showed the name and address of the company. Stan Kelly said he would call the company so they could expect him; and he should go around there straight away. Oh well, Kevin thought something is better than nothing. He glanced at the heading on the card. ‘N.I.D.A. of Bristol’. That sounded rather grand he thought, as he placed the card in his inside pocket.

Kevin left the Unemployment Office and trudged up the street in the now frozen snow; he had to be careful or he could well end up on his backside. As if on cue Kevin lost his footing and did just that, ‘Bang!’ Down he went, spread-eagled on the icy pavement.

‘Let me help you up, old man,’ came a voice which was at the end of the hand being held out seemingly for Kevin to grasp and pull himself up. Kevin gazed up at the smiling face of his rescuer. His gaze travelled past the man holding out his hand and he was surprised to see the rather embarrassed face of Eunice, his girlfriend of two years! What was more, she was holding on to this man’s arm similarly to how she did when she and Kevin went out together.

Struggling to his feet, Kevin looked enquiringly directly at Eunice, ignoring the man who, to all intents and purposes, was walking out with his ‘girlfriend’ of two years!

‘Oh Kevin, you have not met Michael, he is our new Sales Manager!’

Kevin didn’t know what to try to comprehend first; the fact that his girlfriend Eunice was out with this man, or secondly, he also just happened to be his replacement who, according to Mr Bland, the company could not afford! Michael shook hold of Kevin’s hand although it had not been offered. ‘If I can do anything for you, just ask,’ said Michael, shoving a business card in Kevin’s hand. In his dazed state Kevin could just make out the name on the card ‘Michael Bland, Senior Sales Manager’.

The next minute they were gone, strolling down the frozen street, chatting away without a care in the world and Eunice, Kevin’s girlfriend of two years, did not even bother to look back!

Kevin finally located the building which housed the office of NIDA. It sounded a bit like a lady’s name, thought Kevin as he mounted the three flights of stone stairs. He understood, after looking at the rather dingy board at the entrance, that the company he sought was situated on the third floor. Tapping on the door, Kevin was welcomed by an enthusiastic ‘come in.’ Kevin entered the room to be confronted by two men both sitting in chairs with their backs to him. ‘Hullo there, Kevin, welcome to NIDA, please sit down,’ invited one of the men now standing up. This man would soon be revealed as Frasier, and the other as Miles. Kevin looked on helplessly, he could not work out exactly where he was supposed to sit down; the only vacant seat was the large chair behind the desk which seemed to indicate it would be the boss’s chair. ‘Please sit down, Kevin,’ went on the amiable Frasier, pointing in the direction of the large chair. Miles joined in. ‘Yes, please try it out for size.’ Kevin sat where he was asked, wondering what was coming next. He had come for an interview and already he was trying out the boss’s chair and apparently being offered the job. He had not the slightest idea what the job entailed, he did not know what the company NIDA did and, more to the point, just how much would he be paid for this job he had no knowledge of?

‘Please gentlemen, can we slow down, tell me more about what you do and who you two are exactly; why are you sitting over there when surely you should be on this side asking me questions?’

‘Oh don’t worry about that Kevin, you come very favourably recommend by the employment office.’ Miles added.

Kevin persisted: ‘What on earth does NIDA stand for?’ Miles and Frasier looked at each other aghast. ‘You mean you have never heard of us?’

‘No’ replied Kevin emphatically.

‘Well,’ Frasier replied with a shocked look on his face ‘Non Identifiable Detective Agency.’ Miles and Frasier smiled proudly as Frasier spelt out this rather long description of the company’s initials.

‘Never heard of it’ replied Kevin.

‘Well, what do you expect?’ replied Miles. ‘It shows that it works, doesn’t it?’ Kevin was now worried about these two men; although they seemed very pleasant they were, to all intents and purposes, completely mad. In fact, had it been the month of March, Kevin would have classed them both as being ‘mad as March hares.’ Kevin was on the verge of getting up from his new boss’s chair and walking out when he hesitated. Kevin suddenly had a thought. ‘Excuse me asking, would both of your surnames be Kelly?’ The two men, who were obviously brothers, nodded. Kevin went on ‘and would the man at the employment office might also be your brother?’ Again both men nodded.

Kevin was now intrigued; he went on asking questions which the men seemed only to be pleased to answer. ‘How long has the company been operating?’

Again, a prompt answer, ‘nine months.’

‘Have you had many cases?’

‘Oh yes, several’ answered Miles.

‘How did you fare with them?’

Yet another prompt response: ‘Ok.’

Kevin persisted. ‘What kind of cases?’

Frasier offered ‘Well, this woman wanted us to find her husband who had been missing for a week.’

‘Go on,’ Kevin prompted. ‘How did you do, did you find him?’

Miles smiled broadly. ‘Yes, we found him next door to where she lived; he had gone off with the next door neighbour.’

‘You mean he was living next door with another woman and the wife did not know?’ enquired Kevin.

‘Yes, but it was another man actually,’ went on Frasier.

‘A man, did you say a man?’ asked the amazed Kevin.

‘Yes, but they did make a lovely couple,’ replied Miles.

‘How much did you receive for solving that case?’ Kevin asked.

‘Oh, we got five pounds,’ replied Miles proudly.

Kevin shook his head. ‘Am I right in thinking that you don’t appear to have had any more cases; have you?’

‘Well, not exactly, but we did have a telephone call from a lady asking us to find a white cat.’ Kevin could not believe what he was hearing; these guys, nice as they were, seemed to be several sandwiches short of a picnic to say the least.

Kevin sighed and he was about get up and leave when the two brothers played their trump card. ‘We are willing to pay you sixty pounds per month if you accept the position.’ Kevin stopped in his tracks; that was not a bad salary by any stroke of the imagination.

‘Kevin, what do you say?’

Kevin looked at the eager, expectant faces of the two brothers.

‘Well, I guess I could give it a go.’

‘Great,’ said the two men jumping up and each shaking his hand. ‘If you want anything, it is all in the desk.’ The two brothers turned around and headed for the door. As they opened it they found a man and a lady standing outside, apparently poised to knock.

‘Oh, you need to see the boss, Mr Kevin Bell, that’s him sitting at the desk.’ With that, the two excited brothers left the office for parts unknown.

Kevin sat at his desk, stunned for the third time that week; he now had a job and the indications were that he was completely in charge.

Talk about being thrown in at the deep end. Kevin stood up and welcomed the two people as they entered the room. He invited them both to sit down, only to be informed that they were not together; in fact, they had come to the office for completely different reasons. The man identified himself as JJ, and he was there to extract the princely sum of four pounds twelve shillings, on behalf of the telephone company, or he was going to cut off the phone. Kevin looked at the young blonde lady who had by now sat down but seemed oblivious to the situation occurring at that moment. Kevin’s face reddened and he stared at the man who just stood there with his hand out. Kevin glanced around the office; he could see neither a safe nor anything that looked liked a cash box!

Kevin instinctively put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a five pound note which JJ quickly grabbed. After speedily writing out a receipt he left the office, a job well done! Kevin, his face still red, looked questioningly at the rather attractive blonde lady who sat there looking back at him expectantly. Kevin asked her if he could be of any assistance, at the same time realising that he had been forced into paying the man JJ; normally he would have told him to push off and come back again when the two brothers were there. He suddenly had a bad feeling which hit him like a ton of bricks; why had he been sent there by that Kelly man from the unemployment office? Was it because he was so qualified for the job or just because he had in his possession the princely sum of £325.7.6?

JJ had not even left him any change! Things were not working out at all well, when you took into consideration that he had lost his job, most likely lost his girlfriend (of two years) and was now five pounds worse off, to boot.

Kevin looked at the blonde girl who introduced herself as Alice Cooper; she was there on behalf of her Aunt Margaret who had lost her cat, a fluffy white cat who answered to the name of ‘Clarence.’ Would the firm of detectives find the cat for Aunt Margaret? Kevin gazed at the young lady who, he judged, was about his age, possibly a couple of years younger. He looked at her white skin and her soft blonde hair that bounced about as she indicated with her hands just how large the missing cat was. She had nice red lips and she licked them now and again as if to keep her mouth moist. Kevin looked at her intently- he was in love! Kevin was conscious that Alice was now asking him another question and he said ‘yes’ without any hesitation. ‘Fine then, we will see you tomorrow at the manor’ Alice said as she wrote down the address for Kevin and left it on the desk. Kevin just replied, ‘Fine.’ He rushed to the door almost knocking Alice over in his haste to open it for this lovely exquisite creature. ‘Bye,’ Alice purred as she left the room, her perfume leaving a delicate scent which Kevin savoured and followed right to the top of the stairs as his eyes followed her out of sight.

In the next few hours Kevin managed to pay out another nineteen pounds and six shillings as every visitor seemed to require just one thing- money! In the end Kevin put the ‘closed’ sign on the door and contemplated that when the two brothers returned he would get his money back and then he would leave just as fast as he could. Then he stopped; but what would he do about Alice? The heavenly creature who had come into his life just as Eunice, his girlfriend (of two years), had evidently left! He was about to leave the office when the brothers finally returned, broad smiles on their faces, enquiring how his first day went.

It was obvious that wherever the two men had been, it would seemed to have included vast amounts of Guinness.

‘You seemed to have forgotten to leave me the safe keys,’ ventured Kevin.

‘Oh, we don’t have a safe, Kevin, they only attract the wrong sort; everyday we hear of someone being broken into,’ Miles answered.

Kevin went on: ‘I have had to pay in excess of twenty four pounds to people I don’t know and what is more, the twenty four pounds came out of my own pocket.’

‘That, Kevin, was very sporting of you and we must make sure that you get it back out of next month’s profits!’ Miles offered.

‘Oh, by the way, we are extremely pleased with what you are doing, make sure you give yourself a five pound bonus at the end of the month,’ gushed Frasier. With that the two turned about and left the office, again to parts unknown.

Kevin was up early the next day to drive to the village of Bitton, which was located close to Bristol. As he arrived at the address that Alice had left for him and turned into the long drive, he was amazed to see that Milford Manor was indeed very impressive. The grounds appeared to stretch as far as the eye could see. A large lake was situated about two hundred yards from the house. In the middle of the lake there was a small island on which there appeared to be an old fort. Later, he was to discover that the manor was built in the 1650s and had three drawing rooms, several kitchens and twenty bedrooms. Margaret Milford was a grand old lady of 78 years of age. She had recently inherited the Manor upon the death of her brother, Denis Milford. The house had been in the ownership of the Milford family since it was originally built. On his arrival at the impressive front entrance, Kevin was shown into one of the three drawing rooms which ran right across the front of the house. There was a large fire burning in the grate and it felt very cosy as he entered; Kevin wondered if the rest of the house enjoyed the same comforts. He was soon joined by Alice who warmly welcomed him. Margaret Milford joined them, followed by James the butler who brought in three steaming mugs of hot chocolate, one of which was well received by Kevin. Margaret Milford appeared to get a little confused some of the time; she kept referring to Kevin as Detective Inspector, as if he was a real policeman. Alice and Kevin finally gave up trying to put her right about Kevin’s correct job title and he just answered all the questions regardless of the title. Evidently, Clarence the cat had been missing now for four days and despite intensive searches conducted by all of the five servants who helped Margaret Milford to run the large house, no sign of him had been found. Margaret and Alice had concluded that perhaps he had been cat-napped. Would there be a ransom demand coming soon? Kevin was shown around the house and grounds by Alice and he asked some pertinent questions, some lengthily, which enabled him to extend the time he was spending with Alice. Kevin noticed that the house had many rooms which were oak panelled like many of the old houses of that era. He wondered briefly if there was a chance there could be some secret places, such a priest holes, something he had read about when he used to read some of the ghost stories of yesteryear. Alice confirmed she knew of only two but they led to nowhere and as they had not been used for many years it was most unlikely Clarence could have found his way into them.

When the time came for Kevin to make his reluctant departure he said he would return shortly after making some intensive enquiries around the village of Bitton. He would at the same time put up some ‘Lost cat’ signs, maybe offering a reward for the safe return of Clarence. He left feeling quite pleased with himself; he had spent a nice long time with Alice and they had seemed pleased with his proposals. Yes, this detective lark was getting more appealing by the minute; he was quite happy with his thoughts as he let himself into his office. He was pleasantly surprised to find that someone had been in and tided up and even placed some flowers in a pot. He thought that it was a nice touch but was soon disappointed when, to his dismay, he had three more visits from people demanding money from the company. His cheque book was kept busy that day; it was a relief when five o’clock came and he could close the office and go to get himself some refreshment. Of the two brothers there had been no sign; he resigned himself to spending the next day making up the signs and posters which meant, of course, he would have to drive back to the village to put them up. More expense, more money coming out of his pocket. He hoped that his relationship with Alice might some day prove fruitful enough to justify all this money and time he was spending. Of course, he still had the joy of allowing himself a five pound bonus at the end of the month; unfortunately, it would most likely be coming out of his own bank account.

Eunice had the nerve to arrive at Kevin’s home, while he was out doing his bit to rescue Clarence the cat, to remove her selection of records that she had been happy to keep at Kevin’s house. Kevin’s mother gave them to her without a word and Eunice flounced off towards the new life she had found for herself. No words of farewell were left for poor Kevin and his mother felt a little sad for her son, although she could not understand the nonchalant attitude of Kevin upon receiving the news of the departure of the records and, apparently, Eunice. All he said was he would miss the Elvis record that Eunice had taken; his mother never realised for one moment that Kevin had much better fish to fry.

The news of Kevin’s new position as Private Detective had been taken with some amusement by Kevin’s parents and friends; they had cracked all the usual jokes, such as Kevin Bell, Private Detective – that had a nice ring to it!

Kevin for his part just ignored the jokes; while he was not sure if and when he would recover the money he had been ‘spending out’,his only thought at this time was, when he would be seeing the new lady in his life, the lovely Alice.

Sitting at his desk, Kevin was contemplating his next move in finding an excuse to meet her when the telephone rang. It was Alice; would he like to come to tea the next day? Margaret Milford had thought it would be nice if that ‘nice young man’ came to tea. She had made no mention about finding her cat, just for him to come to tea. Kevin immediately accepted, no problem with that, he would make time. Time: he appeared to have plenty of that; his post cards in all the local news agents had not appeared to have had much effect yet.

His thoughts about the impending visit to the Manor were cut short when he heard the heavy sound of a woman’s heels on the the stone stairs. He soon realised that she was heading for his office as she had obviously passed the first two floors.

Bella Maxwell flounced into the room accompanied by the distinct smell of cheap perfume. It was almost overpowering and Kevin immediately opened a window in order that he might breathe easily for the duration of her visit. Bella’s needs were simple; she wanted someone to follow her husband the next day, see where he went, who he met and get evidence if he was meeting a woman. Would he be free to do this as it had to be the next day? Kevin studied the empty pages of his desk diary, making sure that this rather demanding lady could not see the blank pages.

‘Yes, I think I could manage that Madam’ he answered nonchalantly. ‘What do you want exactly?’

‘Well, my husband’s name is Robert Maxwell and he will be leaving our house at exactly 10.30 in the morning, as he usually does, to go to his workplace in the city.’ Bella went on ‘I want you to follow him, see if he meets anyone and, if it’s a lady, take photographs of them. It is also very important that you include the time that this happens.’

Kevin agreed, but suggested that there may not be a clock handy at the time. What happened if it was in a hotel bedroom? Bella ignored his comments and insisted that the time of day was most important. Bella threw twenty five pounds on the desk and promised that there would be another twenty five pounds if he was able to do what she asked.

Kevin was amazed at this sudden influx of money; he nodded as the woman turned about and left the office followed by the obnoxious smell of her cheap perfume. Kevin picked up the money and thought to himself that she could wear horse’s poo if she kept leaving this kind of cash around.

Kevin now had two assignments and was beginning to feel rather important; this detective work looked like it could be a piece of cake!

He wrote a note to leave for the two brothers telling them that he was working on two cases now; a missing cat and, more importantly, an observation case which needed great care. He left a further note stating that he had received an advance payment of twenty five pounds, but he refrained from leaving the actual money. He wanted to make sure it would be recorded correctly and not finish up supplying the two brothers with numerous pints of Guinness.

The next morning Kevin left the office and went to the address left by Bella Maxwell, positioning himself in his car just outside the front door. He did not have long to wait; at 10.30 a.m. out came Robert Maxwell, complete with umbrella and brief case, on his way to work. Glancing up, Kevin received a signal from Bella from the first floor bedroom window pointing out that this was certainly her husband, Robert Maxwell. This woman was certainly out to trap her wayward husband. Kevin was driving slowly, following the man, when the man suddenly jumped on a bus causing Kevin to panic. He brought his car to a screeching halt and ran to catch the same bus. Catching his breath, he sat a few seats behind his quarry and pretended to read his newspaper. It was how all the private eyes behaved when stalking their prey. Three stops later, Robert Maxwell suddenly got up from his seat and got off the bus. He seemed to be in no hurry but Kevin worked out that this not the stop that he would have expected him to get off. It was certainly not the stop that Kevin knew would lead him to his workplace. He was definitely up to no good.

Kevin watched his prey walk into a roadside café and, lo and behold, an attractive lady soon joined him at his table. Kevin sauntered into the café, ordered a coffee and sat down to observe the two ‘love birds,’ from behind his newspaper, so that they would not notice him. There was no chance of that; the couple gazed into each other’s eyes, seemingly oblivious to everybody who happened to be in the café. Kevin knew he had to act now and, as he pulled out his camera, he was pleasantly surprised to see that conveniently situated just above the love birds’ table was a large clock, the type you would normally expect to see in police and train stations and such like. After clicking the camera several times, Kevin paid for the coffee he had ordered and walked out of the café. He was extremely pleased with himself; he had accomplished with apparent ease the task set by Bella Maxwell. He walked back to his car with a light step and wondered if all the cases he would get in the future be as easy as this. It all made his recent dismissal from C.E. French that much easier to come to terms with; yes, he could get use to this.

Dropping off the film at the chemist shop was his first priority after calling Bella Maxwell, who gave out screams of apparent delight; she knew the swine was up to no good! Kevin thought he would head for the office and then take a well earned lunch before going to the Manor for tea and crumpets with the delightful Alice. Arriving at the office he found that the brothers had been in because, sitting on the desk, there were some newly printed business cards. Kevin Bell, Private Investigator, NIDA which, put together, spelt the words PINIDA, which could have been worse.

Kevin was pleased to find that visits of people asking for payment had now fallen off to a trickle but he knew that his little nest egg of 325 pounds must have halved by now. Still, he was enjoying himself, something he had not done for years and if things worked out with Alice…..On his arrival at to the manor, Kevin was shown into the large dining room which was laid out with the best silver tea service.

Finally, the talk came around to how his efforts in finding Clarence were going; had he managed to find any clues? This was the only question that Margaret asked; it was almost as if she had forgotten why she had asked Kevin to attend this rather grand occasion. Kevin explained that he had put many posters up, offering a reward of £25, which he hoped would draw some interest for people to come forward with some clues about the missing Clarence. Margaret smiled nicely at this; she went on to explain that she had lain awake for some nights, even imagining that she could hear poor Clarence mewing pitifully in the darkness.

Alice and Kevin were genuinely sorry to hear this; Kevin said he would redouble his efforts to ensure that Clarence the cat would be returned safely in the near future. As Kevin made his way out of the manor he received a nice surprise; Alice gave him a peck on the cheek.

It was like Christmas had come early and the private investigator left the house with yet another spring in his step. Goodness, he was happy; he secretly hoped that Clarence the cat might stay away just a little bit longer.

The next day Bella Maxwell turned up to collect the pictures of her wayward husband which Kevin had collected from the overnight photo development service. Bella was highly delighted and as she left, after depositing thirty five pounds on the desk, she announced she would recommend NIDA to all her friends and she would definitely use them again should she need another husband followed.

The next day Frasier and Miles had a nice surprise for Kevin for there, lying in the corner of the room, was a new partner for him: a boxer dog, which kept leaping up every two minutes and washing everyone’s face with his rather wet tongue. Kevin could not believe it; not another mouth to feed and such a large one at that!

Frasier explained. ‘Every good detective has to have a good bloodhound dog to smell out the clues.’ Kevin nodded feebly, not even bothering to try to explain that dogs didn’t smell clues, they sniffed and, furthermore, this was definitely not a bloodhound; more like a dopey boxer!

It was now becoming apparent that the brothers, realising that most of the outstanding debts had fortunately been cleared, that it was now safe for them to venture back into the office. Would they be helping out? Well of course, should they be required, they would put their shoulders to the wheel and give Kevin all kinds of support. Well, perhaps not between twelve noon and three in the afternoon, they still had important meetings to attend then!

Kevin had arranged to take Alice out for a lunchtime drink that day so with Frankie, named after Frasier’s uncle, in tow he set out and drove to the Manor house. Drawing up outside, Kevin was greeted by Alice who was ready and waiting for him in a pretty dress. She looked a picture and Kevin was now completely hooked on this new lady in his life. Yes, this was all going very nicely. Well, that was until Frankie decided that he wanted to look around the spacious house. Out he bounded before Kevin had any chance of putting a leash on him. He shot up the front steps, straight into the grand hallway and bounded up the grand stairs which led off the hallway, Kevin and Alice in full pursuit. Chasing after them was the butler, the footman and the maid, all trying in vain to catch up with the now rampant Frankie. Kevin and Alice breathlessly arrived on the landing which ran all around the top of the grand hall; where had the silly dog gone? Loud barks were coming from one of the many corridors which ran off the landing. They found the excited Frankie scratching and barking at an oak panel which had obviously captured his attention. Trying to pull him off had no effect and he remained in a staunch position with his front feet firmly placed against the oak panelling. Kevin was intrigued, was there something behind this panelling? Alice was certain there was no secret hideaway there or she would have known about it. Kevin examined the oak panelling but nothing seemed to react to his prodding and pushing of the many panels.

Kevin scratched his head but still Frankie kept barking and scratching like mad at the panel. Kevin continued his pushing and prodding; suddenly he pulled on one of the arms of the wall lights fittings which, although no longer used, were spread along the wall. It was like an old horror movie but without the noise effects. A door which consisted of six of the panels swung back leaving a large black space from which a chill draught emanated. Before any one could stop him Frankie was off down the steps which ran down from the opening.

They could hear him barking in the darkness as he tore down the steps and into a passage that led to goodness knows where. Precious moments were lost while Alice sent one of the staff for a torch in order they could see to follow Frankie down the extremely dark steps. As they ventured down the steps they could hear the excited barks of Frankie as he continued on his way. The passage seemed endless to the party cautiously walking down it. Kevin gasped ‘It must be leading to the island; we are under the lake, I can see signs of water seeping down the walls.’ Suddenly they arrived at a small room in which, although poorly lit, they could just about make out an amusing sight; standing in the middle of the room was the missing Clarence who was being licked by the dozy Frankie, obviously pleased to have found a new playmate. Clarence seemed unfazed by all this attention and, although rather grubby, appeared quite well; he must have been feeding on the numerous mice that were present on the small island. Something else caught Kevin’s eye; in the corner of the room there seemed to be a collection of items covered over with a large cloth. There were pictures, silverware and other items, too many to readily count.

Alice gasped. ‘How did they all get here and what is more, who put them there?’ Kevin replied. ‘Well, I imagine either they have been here for some time or someone has more recently placed them there. If is the case I would imagine that person could well be missing when we get back to the house!’

The party returned to house and related the news to Margaret who, in turn, was soon making a fuss of the returned Clarence. The news of the items being recovered was also a pleasant surprise; it was not long before it was found that Peterson, the chauffeur, was no longer present at the house. Kevin said he would phone the police so they could put out an alert to find him. Kevin helped the remaining staff to bring back from the hidden room the stolen goods which, surprisingly, were in good condition, the small room being quite airtight and waterproof. Peterson must have visited the island when he first came to work at the house five years ago; he must have found the steps down to the room, thus giving him the idea of using it to stash his stolen items. He had total run of the house and was in charge of the general maintenance; it had been easy for him to carry out the crimes.

Kevin was the king, he was the man; the NIDA agency had solved the crime and, what is more, recovered all that stolen loot. Yes, well, second only to the real champion, Frankie the dopy ‘bloodhound,’ who had by now made himself quite at home, with Clarence lying down beside him. They both enjoyed the best in suppers, which Kevin noticed, consisted of best steak and warm milk. Kevin also enjoyed a nice dinner, being spoilt by both Margaret and Alice. Not bad for an amateur; not that of course he would ever admit that! The appreciation of what had occurred was underlined further by a payment of £100 in crisp five pound notes which Margaret gave Kevin as he reluctantly left the house that night, minus Frankie, who had been given permission to stay over. Kevin already started thinking about how he could ‘mistakenly’ leave him there!

His payment from Alice was even better, a nice big kiss on the lips!

Kevin drove home that night with a warm glow in his heart and, even better, some cash to put in the bank. ‘Nice one, lad,’ exclaimed his father who, for the last week, had been making fun at Kevin’s expense. Every time something previously had been mislaid he would shout out for Kevin to investigate! He had called him Kevin of the Yard.

Now, silence.

Next day at the office Kevin’s good humour lasted right up until ten o’clock when suddenly he heard the sound of heavy boots coming up the stone steps. They got louder as they approached the office door, and then stopped. He hardly had time to say ‘come in’ when the door was flung open and in walked two raincoated men. ‘Mr Plod’ was stamped on their heads in invisible ink! Introducing themselves, one of them pulled out of his pocket a photo of a man who Kevin immediately recognised as Robert Maxwell!

‘We understand that you were with this man two days ago, between ten a.m. and twelve noon, sir.’

The statement sounded more like a drill sergeant shouting a command than a polite question. Kevin nodded his head. ‘Yes, I do know him and yes, while I was not with this man I was in his vicinity.’

‘Are you sure, sir?’ Another stern question! Kevin replied sternly.

‘Yes, I am, sir.’ Kevin’s answer was as blunt as his had been.

The two men’s demeanour suddenly changed; they could see that the only thing they were achieving was getting the private detective’s anger up. ‘We have not met; Mr Kelly isn’t it?’ ‘No,’ replied Kevin. ‘My name is Mr Kevin Bell and you can call me ‘Mr Bell’.’

‘Ok,’ replied Sergeant Mike Baldwin, ‘and this is my Constable, Moon.’

Kevin thought to himself, not Harvey? Yet another poor sod who, like him, must have heard the usual jokes, such as shine on harvest moon.

All very funny to the people giving it out not realising that they were a bit late thinking about it.

‘Shall we start again, please?’ came a much more reasonable request.

Kevin agreed, inviting the two men to sit down.

‘We have had several break-ins in the area which seem to have been carried out by a professional gang; the only thing they go for is diamonds, nothing else.’

Kevin asked the usual questions. ‘Why Mr Maxwell? ‘The last time I saw him it seemed that he was more interested in getting into some lady, rather than diamonds.’

‘Robert Maxwell is a well known thief who has been in the area for some years and has been connected with many crimes but always, and I mean always, has a cast iron alibi,’ went on Mike. ‘He must have been connected with at least twelve jobs just around this area.You must have met his wife Bella; it was she who gave us your name as an alibi.’

Kevin looked amazed and then said ‘You are sure she gave my name? The last time I saw her she was just about to strangle him and, to all intents and purposes, shoot him, figuratively speaking of course. If you were going to put him behind bars she would have been over the moon.’

Kevin could not help looking at the unfortunate Harvey Moon when he said that. He thought to himself he must stop that!

‘No sir,’ replied Sergeant Baldwin. ‘You must be mistaken; those two are like Darby and Joan, always holding hands and kissing each other!’

Kevin suddenly had a strong feeling that he, Kevin Bell, professional (new) private detective, had been led up the garden path. ‘Well,Sergeant, what do you want of me? You are the professionals not me, if you know what I mean.’ ‘Yes I do, but if you remember anything more, please get in touch, the sergeant added, leaving his business card. The two men left the office and trudged noisily down the stone stairs. You could always tell when people gotdown to the bottom; it went nice and quiet.

Kevin, flushed with his latest conquest of solving the case of the missing ca, started thinking about just how he could get his own back on the two Maxwells. He was not sure why exactly; after all he had been well paid for his few hours trailing old Robert.

Getting into his car Kevin drove to the Maxwell house and knocked on the door. To his surprise Robert Maxwell answered it and looked surprised when Kevin asked if he could see Bella. ‘She is out,’replied the man.‘Oh, am I talking with her husband Robert?’ Kevin asked.

The man looked decidedly uncomfortable. This man looked more like a debt collector. ‘Err, no, I’m his brother, Jimmy.’

Even with Kevin’s limited time he had spent playing ‘Top Private Investigator’, the words started alarm bells ringing; could the ‘brother’ be a twin brother? Kevin excused himself after leaving one of his new cards and returned to his car. It was lunchtime so he drove to the local café to meet Alice, who seemed to accept that if anything – they were walking out! The two sat there looking into each other’s eyes and it was only when the waitress came up and coughed that they realised most of the other clients in the small café were looking at them.

After ordering coffee and the special of the day (steak and kidney pie, Kevin’s favourite), Alice, keen to show she was not the sex vamp that every one there appeared to think she was, asked how his day had gone. Kevin, also keen to allay all those stares, recanted his trip to the Maxwells’ house and the man’s denial that he was Robert Maxwell. ‘He must have thought I was a debt collector,’ he added to the attentive Alice.

Alice then came back with a similar conclusion that Kevin had come to. ‘Perhaps he was his twin!’

Kevin said ‘Alice I could kiss you.’ Alice looked embarrassed. ‘Not here Kevin, I think we have given all these people here enough to go on already.’ Kevin laughed. ‘I reckon we might have just solved some very old cases involving stolen diamonds.’

Dropping Alice back to the Manor and after waving to Mrs Milford, Kevin sped off down the drive; he thought he might have been forced to retrieve that daft mutt Frankie, but of him there was no sign.

Arriving at the police station, the first thing Kevin saw was several posters up offering several hundreds of pounds for the conviction of Diamond Pete as he was affectionately called. In fact, to be precise, five hundred pounds.

Being shown into Mike Baldwin’s office and given a cup of tea, Kevin thought he would play it smart and enquired about the reward and was it still available. ‘Yes,’ replied Mike. ‘In fact, you can add another five hundred on to that amount; after the last job the insurance companies are getting rather desperate.’

Kevin replied ‘Well, I think I know how they all do it, but I would like to register my interest in the case and of course the reward of the one thousand pounds; as you know I am a private detective.’ Of sorts, he thought to himself. Mike Baldwin readily agreed. ‘No problem there, what do you have in mind?’ Kevin answered ‘I am convinced that there are two Maxwell brothers and, what is more, they are identical twins.’ Mike Baldwin suddenly sat up. ‘Well that would explain a lot, we have been convinced that Diamond Pete is Maxwell but never could prove it as he always had a cast iron alibi.’ Kevin went on ‘The problem is we have to catch them together, preferably actually pulling off a job.’

The two men decided that they had to observe the Maxwell house on a twenty four hour basis. Kevin offered he would do the day shift with his two sleeping partners joining in. He had made up his mind that they now had to do something more to earn their part in the firm’s future prosperity, if there was going to be one!

It was after one of the Frasier’s stints that he came back rather excited; he had just observed one of the Maxwell brothers and, in fact, he had seen ‘one of them’ many times before. ‘I have seen that man in the public house that Miles and I go to um, now and again, for our business lunches.’ Kevin almost choked as he heard the mention of the word ‘business’ but he let it go. ‘Well, this could be great, how many times have you seen him?’ ‘Um, daily, when we go in there,’ Frasier added, now realising for the first time that he was digging himself a rather large hole.

Kevin decided to put him out of his misery. ‘Look, you two, I couldn’t care less about your ‘business’ lunches but now I want you to do something for me which will be just up your street.’ The brothers’ eyes lit up. ‘Oh yes Kevin, whatever you want us to do.’ Kevin went on. ‘Have you ever talked with either of them?’ Miles offered ‘Well, we certainly have nodded a few times.’ Kevin then revealed his plan. ‘I want you both to go in there, make contact with Maxwell, get to know him, buy him a drink and, when you are friendly, suggest you might be in the market for some contraband.’

Miles looked puzzled. ‘Do you mean we have to book a band or something like that? Do you mean a good old Irish band? I’d like one of those; I’m partial to a good old knees-up!’

Frasier joined in: ‘Me too, there’s nothing like a good old Irish jig to get you going in the morning!’ As if to underline his words he started doing an impromptu jig around the office.

Kevin looked blankly at the two brothers’ faces; how could these men, who had hoodwinked him so easily into parting with his hard earned cash, manage to be so dumb. They must get up really early in the morning to practice!

Miles laughed. ‘Fooled yer!’ A sign of relief spread over Kevin’s face and he didn’t feel quite so bad about giving away all that cash. Kevin continued. ‘Now look you two, here is ten pounds for your drinks but remember you have to move only when you have become firm ‘friends’ with him.’ ‘There’s no time like the present’ exclaimed Frasier. The brothers got up, took the ten pounds and clomped down the stone stairs. Kevin wondered just when he would see the two again.

Kevin decided that now he had some time to himself he would try to take his relationship with the lovely Alice a stage further. His phone call suggesting that they meet up was received with enthusiasm and he locked the office up and drove to the manor house. Frankie was pleased to see him and gave him the usual wash on his face which Kevin managed to keep down to just the once. Margaret Milford was extremely pleased to see Kevin again and he felt almost like one of the family.

Alice had a surprise for him; she wanted him to meet her parents! Parents! She had not even mentioned them to him before!

Alice explained that they lived in the next county over at a place called

Bathampton; a little hamlet just outside Bath. Kevin and Alice set off for Alice’s parents’ home, stopping off at a little tea shop which Alice knew; they had some tea and toasted tea cakes, all very posh. Kevin was in for another shock, for as they drove into the drive of Alice’s parents’ house he was amazed to find it was almost as impressive as Aunt Margaret’s. Kevin was warmly greeted by Peter and Gloria, Alice’s parents, who immediately related how pleased they were that he and Alice had recovered Clarence the cat. They also added that it was nice that the items that had been stolen had also been recovered. Kevin thought about how the other half lived, more concerned about the cat than the numerous valuable items they had recovered. Kevin liked the two immediately but looking around him he wondered if perhaps they might feel that their daughter might be better suited with one of the local squires who might live in the one of the grand properties that adjoined Alice’s parents’ house.

Alice, for her part, was seemingly unfazed by all this and proudly showed off her new beau and was extremely affectionate to Kevin all afternoon. Kevin thought he did notice a slight note of disapproval on her father’s face once or twice as she planted kisses on Kevin’s cheek.

He had an uneasy feeling as he bade Peter and Gloria goodbye and drove Alice drove back to the Manor. This feeling continued for the rest of the day, which rather took the edge off what had, up to that point, been an extremely pleasant day.

The next day Kevin was getting a little concerned; he could see by the petty cash withdrawals that the two brothers had been putting a lot of effort in their attempts to snare the gang but maybe a little too much?

He wished he had not even started that, but he had; he would just have to put up with it. How the two had managed before he joined the company was a bit of a mystery. He was sitting at his desk when the two brothers excitedly came into the office; they had made a firm contact with Robert Maxwell, or was it Jimmy? The brothers went on to explain that they had been ‘friends’ with the Maxwell brother for about a week. They had plied him with drinks (which one might have gathered due to the increase in petty cash withdrawals). Kevin smiled as he realised that the two men were ‘covering their butts’ as one might say. Frasier explained that they had convinced Maxwell (they hoped) that they wanted to put some cash into such things as paintings, precious jewels and, of course casually mentioned, diamonds. Kevin started to believe that the two had indeed managed to convince the Maxwell brothers that they were genuine. Actually, the fact they were Irish, it was almost certain that the Maxwells had taken them to be IRA supporters or suchlike. Kevin instructed them to continue their contact with the Maxwells, with the proviso that they keep him in touch with how things were proceeding. It did seem incredible that the brothers were happy to accept the orders that Kevin gave; in fact they both acted as though they were, indeed, as happy as ‘pigs in poo’.

Kevin continued to keep Mike Baldwin abreast of things and the two talked daily, waiting for the so-called ‘sting’ to take place. It was all arranged; the meeting was set up with the Maxwell clan and it was now known that there were indeed, two brothers. Also at the meeting would be another person: surprise, surprise, the wife, Bella Maxwell. It would seem that she was regarded as the head of the gang which did rather come as a surprise to both Kevin and Mike.

The day of the ‘sting’ arrived with Kevin, Mike and his men conveniently placed just around the corner from the meeting place, the local church hall, which had been selected by the gang mainly due to it being just outside the town in an isolated spot. Kevin and the rest of the police waited patiently for the signal which would one of the brothers, either Frasier or Miles, coming out for a smoke. Kevin was a little uneasy about this part; it would mean one of the brothers actually leaving the meeting at a crucial time. Either way, everyone at the briefing had been happy with this arrangement and they all waited patiently for one of the brothers to come out. It was Frasier that emerged from the hall and he made a big show of taking out a cigarette and lighting it. Next minute he was engulfed in coughing and spluttering which seemed to go on for ever; in fact it was of course nearer two minutes. ‘The daft bugger doesn’t even smoke,’ exclaimed Mike Baldwin. After several minutes Frasier put out his cigarette and went back into the hall; everyone waited for a few more minutes. Then Mike Baldwin gave the signal and everyone charged into the hall, guns at the ready and acting really tough. First in was Mike Baldwin; he looked around expecting some kind of resistance but there was none. However, what confronted him made his mouth drop open in amazement for there, sitting there with hands tied behind their backs, looking very embarrassed were the two brothers, Frasier and Miles. Standing proudly over the two was a smiling Mrs Bella Maxwell. ‘Do come in gentlemen, we were just going to phone you; we seemed to have captured two IRA men!’ Kevin, who unfortunately had come in as well, knew the game was up; what was more upsetting, there was still only one Maxwell brother! It was obvious that the brothers’ acting ability had not been up to scratch and now the gaff was blown. It suddenly occurred to Kevin that perhaps the simple of act of visiting the Maxwell house and leaving one of his cards may also have aroused the suspicions of the gang. After all, why would Kevin have needed to visit them and that coming straight after the police visit to confirm the alibi of Robert Maxwell? How could he have been so stupid? With the brothers’ play-acting, they had all played right into the gang’s hands. Kevin groaned to himself; perhaps his infatuation with Alice had stopped him from thinking correctly and that was rather a shame. He knew that trying to keep Alice out of his thoughts would be extremely difficult but he realised that he had to do better!

Bella watched gleefully as the police went through the procedure of arresting the two brothers; she smiled broadly at Kevin who turned away in despair. What had started off as an almost seemingly cast-iron certainty had now collapsed around them. His two partners were now in jail, at least for twenty fours hours, in a vain effort by the police to save their faces. Kevin had just experienced his first major set back. Private Eye Kevin had blown it!

Mike Baldwin opened the cell door to set the two ‘IRA’ prisoners free just before midnight. He knew that he would be able to cover up the arrest but that it did not make anyone feel any better for the total collapse of their well thought-out plan. The problem was that the two brothers were not in the professional crooks’ league when it came to convincing anyone to accept their ‘act’.

Kevin was very annoyed with himself for having shown his face at the arrest; to all intents and purposes his part in capturing the ‘diamond’ gang from now on would be extremely limited to say the least.

The three men met up the next day at the office to lick their wounds; it was about professional pride as far as the two brothers were concerned.

After all, they had a reputation to maintain back in the old country; had they not recently told everyone that their new detective agency was not only going well, but was one of the best in the country? Fortunately the newspapers were not involved, so the three men escaped the embarrassment of reading about themselves in the local newspaper.

As far as Kevin was concerned he was now without a case; he knew he had to leave the gang alone as they would be on the lookout for anything suspicious. Mike Baldwin had taken it all rather well considering he had been called before his boss and asked to explain why the operation, which had cost so much, had ended without a successful result.

Kevin continued his courting of Alice, who seemed to return his attentions with some enthusiasm. Clarence and Frankie also kept up their mutual admiration and spent most of their days licking each other – well mainly Frankie doing the licking much to Aunt Margaret’s amusement. It was now accepted that Frankie the ‘bloodhound’ should spend most, if not all, of his time at the manor. Frankie enjoyed the extra freedom that the spacious grounds gave him and he and Aunt Margaret spent many hours going for walks and enjoying each other’s company.

The days passed and with them the promising start the new vitalised agency had experienced. It had now come to a complete stop; no new requests to find runaway husbands or lost cats come to that.

Kevin decided to take the two brothers out to cheer them up. Together with Alice, they all piled into his car and drove out into the countryside. Alice suddenly suggested that they drop in to visit her parents, who happened to live close by. Kevin was not that happy at first but seeing that Alice was keen to see her parents again, he reluctantly agreed. Frasier and Miles were only too pleased to visit Royalty, as they called it.

Surprisingly, Peter and Gloria were pleased to see them and ushered them all into their grand lounge for afternoon tea and cakes. It all went very well with the two brothers coming out with all their Irish charm and telling jokes which had Peter and Gloria rocking with laughter. Kevin had a chance to observe Alice’s parents and he came to the conclusion that perhaps they might not be too bad after all. He could almost imagine having them for in-laws, oh well, perhaps not?

They group left Alice’s parents and drove back to Milford House, Kevin talking to Alice and the two brothers taking time to look at the impressive grounds that led back to the grand entrance.

They were approaching Milford House when Miles suddenly spoke up. ‘I wonder why that Maxwell feller was hanging around that house we have just been to.’ Kevin pulled the car to a screeching halt. ‘What did you say Miles?’

‘Well, that Maxwell feller was with his blonde wife; they were parked some way from the house and were looking at the house with some of those binoculars things!’ Kevin looked at the bemused Miles. ‘Are you sure Miles? You couldn’t have been mistaken?’

The look on Miles’s face showed great indignation. ‘Of course I am, wasn’t it me that had to look at that Robert’s smirking mug when he tied us both up that day!’ Kevin was now very interested. ‘Can you be sure that they didn’t spot us driving out of the entrance?’ Miles shrugged. ‘Well, I am pretty sure; the lady was looking down at something in her lap and the man was looking at the house with the glasses.’

Kevin looked at Alice, who immediately thought they should warn her parents straight away. Kevin tenderly put his hand on her arm. ‘Not so fast Alice; if it was them, they were only checking the place out and we can set a trap for them.’ Alice gave Kevin a pained look. ‘What, one just like the other one?’ Kevin blushed and nodded. ‘Point taken’ he added. ‘Look, I will drop you off and go and see Mike Baldwin straight away and see what he suggests.’ Alice seemed happy with this and after dropping her and the two brothers off, Kevin made his way to the police station. Mike Baldwin was not there but the duty sergeant promised to relay Kevin’s request for him to contact him as soon as he returned.

Bella Maxwell looked at her husband. ‘Well, what do you think, do you reckon we can get in alright?’ Robert Maxwell replied. ‘Well, I cannot see why not, with all those large ground floor windows conveniently spread around the place.’ Bella continued. ‘The thing is will they have much in there? I mean it looks quite impressive but sometimes the people in these places have pawned their stuff and use paste ones!’

Robert paused and looked thoughtfully at Bella. ‘Well, pickings are getting harder to get now the old Bill is keeping an eye on us; they might also have some nice paintings and most likely some pearls – these people just love those kind of things!’ Bella finally nodded her agreement.

‘I reckon that we should do this last job and then retire to the South of France; it’s getting risky relying on you and Jimmy being each other’s alibis.’ Robert nodded. ‘Right then, what say you we do this next weekend, say at midnight on the Saturday night when they have had their fill of food and drink? Perhaps they might even go out and do some fox hunting and such like!’ They both laughed at the idea of these toffs going out hunting and coming back only to find that they themselves had been hunted!

With that the two drove back to their house to tell Brother Jimmy about the new plans and prepare for their new life in the sunny south of France. Yes, that would do quite nicely, thought Bella; I fancy some nice sun on my little body.

Frasier and Miles turned up early the next morning at the office, looking quite down in the mouth; they realised that their acting abilities had been sadly lacking and now everything was not so rosy in the garden. They found Kevin in a good mood; evidently Mike Baldwin had telephoned him and thought that the sighting of Bella and Robert Maxwell was just too much of a coincidence to be ignored. The problem was, though, any action they could take had to be on their own as the powers that be would not in any way sanction any more overtime after the last fiasco. The two brothers straight away volunteered for duty, much to Mike Baldwin’s disappointment. Kevin said ‘They will be alright.’

He said this without much conviction but, what the heck; he knew that it would not be advisable for him and Mike to attempt this without some help. However, glancing at the two brothers, Kevin wondered briefly was his affection for the two brothers clouding his judgement – yet again?

Mike then drafted in his side-kick Constable Moon; he was only too pleased to join in after the last fiasco. He’d had enough of the ribbing about his rush into the den of thieves; did the Moon man want to get a cup of Maxwell coffee? Why did he not just go to a café for one?

Kevin for his part welcomed the extra man; he knew that if they were lucky enough to apprehend the gang, the two heavily built brothers would take some handling. Not to mention the rather large form of Bella Maxwell!

It was arranged that the five of them would take turns in observing the Maxwell’s house with the remaining four taking it in turns to keep watch at the Mansion house. Peter and Gloria seemed to take the news rather well and readily agreed for two of their staff to keep watch on the entrance to the grounds; they had plenty of high level vantage points from which to do this. The next three nights were spent without any incident and, as usual in these cases; doubts were raised by the waiting staff. Was this all a wild goose chase? It was decided to continue the stake-out for another few days and then review the situation; after all, the Maxwells could well have decided against doing the job.

It was nearly eleven o’clock in the evening and it was Kevin’s turn to keep an eye on the Maxwell house. He was just starting to wonder if he would be spending yet another fruitless night. He would have much preferred to be spending the evening with Alice, holding hands in front of the television. He had grown extremely fond of her; he was secretly hoping for her to admit to him that she felt the same. He wondered if her parents, the formidable Peter and Gloria had expressed any doubts about their relationship; he could only hope that this was not so.

His thoughts were suddenly brought back to reality when suddenly he heard the slamming of a door and footsteps down the Maxwells’ pathway, quickly followed by the closing of car doors. Peering closely at the car, he could just make out the forms of a blonde lady and two men. He could only imagine that the third person in the car could well be the elusive Jimmy Maxwell who had been the target of their last failed ‘arrest’ attempt. Pulling away at great speed, the occupants in the car seemed oblivious to his presence but Kevin still wondered briefly if this was going to be another ‘lead me up the garden path’ exercise.

Still, Kevin knew they had no choice but to follow through with their plan. He stopped at a telephone box and called Mike Baldwin on his car phone; Mike was seated in his car just outside the big house. ‘It looks like they are on the move, Mike’ exclaimed Kevin excitedly ‘I will telephone and pick up the boys and come straight up to the house. I will most likely lose them but if all goes well you will see them before I do.’ Mike agreed and woke up his sleeping partner, Moon. ‘Come on Sergeant, rise and shine.’ He laughed as he said this, but poor Moon just grimaced as usual. Kevin collected the two brothers and made his way to the big house, parking some distance away and they cautiously made their way to the meeting place that they had previously agreed on. No sign of Mike and Moon though, what could have happened? Kevin was about to quietly call out when he felt a hand placed over his mouth. ‘It’s all right Kev, we’re here, we had to hide as they parked their damn car right close to us; luckily they did not spot the car.’

Kevin replied. ‘Where are they now?

Mike gestured. ‘One of the men went over the wall and then opened the side gate for Bella.’

‘You mean the old girl has actually gone in with them?’ Kevin exclaimed.

‘Looks that way,’ Moon answered eagerly.

The problem next was how the five men would play this; they had to catch the crooks with the swag or they would possibly plead that they were just early for the next day’s house viewing!

Mike Baldwin took command. ‘Kevin and I will try to get closer and see what they are doing, while Moon and – you two’ pointing to the two anxious brothers ‘will wait here in case we miss them.’ Mike and Kevin then disappeared into the darkness while the remaining men waited to see what would happen next.

The moon came out from behind a cloud as Kevin and Mike crouched behind some of the many bushes situated outside the large house. They strained their eyes to see if they could see any signs of how the three burglars had made their entrance. Even in the moonlight they could not see anything. Still keeping in the bushes, they silently moved further around the side of the house. If they could not find where the gang had entered, they would not be in the right place to catch them with any goods that they might have stolen. Kevin groaned to himself; this detective work was not as easy as he had first thought.

They were wondering what their next move should be when suddenly pandemonium broke out with lights coming on and the sound of shots being fired, accompanied by the loud barking of dogs. Kevin and Mike looked at each other in amazement and they were about to stand up when a large form came crashing through the bushes, knocking both of them down in its haste to get away! Winded, Kevin looked around just in time to see the form of Bella Maxwell spread-eagled in the bushes, half covering poor Mike who gasped and pushed her off with a huge heave. She had in her grasp a large sack from which cascaded numerous silver items which included two large silver candle sticks and one extremely decorative coffee pot! Mike, after getting his breath back, got up, bent down over the cursing Bella and quietly said ‘Bella, you’re nicked.’ Bella Maxwell sat up, cursing obscenities that no lady of her quality should even know. However, Bella was certainly no lady.

The two men were suddenly aware of even more events taking place; without any warning, yet another large form came crushing through the bushes, this time colliding with Kevin.

Kevin was again knocked to the ground, gasping for breath, this time taking the full force of this new weighty person. In the moonlight, Kevin could make out the features of the new arrival as Robert Maxwell, or was it, maybe, the elusive Jimmy? Suddenly, a smaller form came crashing through the bushes landing on the sprawled form of the Maxwell brother. Kevin could not believe his eyes; sitting on the chest of the man was his old mate Frankie, who was enthusiastically giving the man an extremely wet wash all over his face.

The man screamed out as if he was being murdered but all Kevin and Mike could do was to laugh out loud at the comical sight of Frankie, bloodhound extraordinaire, giving the poor man, to all intents and purposes, the kiss of life!

Within minutes the group was joined by the members of the household, including a very determined Peter and Gloria who, both armed with shotguns, showed their approval of the two men and the dog capturing the two burglars. What had happened to the third person? Surely the elusive Jimmy or Robert had not managed to escape again. They still had to prove the existence of a twin brother to enable all the previous diamond break-ins to be laid at the gang’s door. It was not long before that question was answered as Moon, Miles and Frasier marched up holding the scowling form of Jimmy Maxwell! At last, the final piece of the puzzle!

Frasier, however, was holding his head. ‘Are you alright Frasier?’ Kevin queried. ‘How did you get hurt?’ ‘This darn man fell on me when he jumped over the wall, trying to make his escape,’ replied Frasier with a hurt look on his face. The group started laughing but Frasier was not having it. ‘You don’t know what it felt like,’ he whined.

He could not fathom out the reason for the even more riotous laughter that came from Mike and Kevin. ‘Do you want to bet?’ they both chorused.

The gang, with the still snarling Bella showing her true colours realising that her trip to the south of France would have to be put on permanent hold, were unceremoniously put into the newly arrived police van.

The five men were invited into the house for some well earned drinks and perhaps an explanation as to just how the occupants of the house were so well prepared.

With Frankie still portraying his usual boisterous level of friendliness, the group entered the drawing room to be met by the smiling features of Alice, who straight away gave Kevin a big kiss! Kevin could not believe his eyes; here was his lady friend who had obviously played a large part in the capture of the gang, just standing there handing out the hot chocolate as if there was nothing to it!

‘How did you know it was tonight?’ Asked the stunned Kevin.

‘Well, that part was easy’ answered Alice ‘I arranged with Miles to ring and tell me when it was going down’ (she said this in a true Eliot Ness style) ‘and we just waited for them to arrive’. We knew you were close by, so all we had to do was to let them take some of the goods, fire over their heads and then let Frankie free! You should have seen them run!’ Peter and Gloria laughed at this. ‘Yes, the hardest part was keeping Frankie quiet, bless him.’

Kevin shook his head; yet again his part in the proceedings had been upstaged by his four-legged friend, the formidable Frankie! Still, by not actually admitting that Mike and he had been successful only by being in the right place at the right time, the two men had come out it all rather well.

If Mike doctored his report just a little, then they both could be regarded as heroes! Another surprise soon followed when in walked Aunt Margaret, who had also been staying and had watched everything from an upstairs window, from start to finish. Fortunately, she had not witnessed the ‘falling over’ bit, or at least she never mentioned it; she just gave everyone some well done applause which made everyone blush a little.

Kevin and Alice sat by the fire, drinking their hot chocolate, with the two brothers again relating their part in the capture of the gang; it could be forgiven if one got the impression that indeed it was they themselves who had managed the sole capture of the desperadoes.

Still, the Detective Agency of NIDA had come out of it very well and with the reward of one thousand pounds, their finances had now received a large boost. To add to this, Alice’s parents had promised that their insurance company would cough up another thousand pounds for the quick recovery of the stolen goods!

‘Well, I would like to give a toast,’ said Miles, standing up with his steaming cup of hot chocolate ‘to Kevin, his new assistant Alice. We must not forget their personal assistant Frankie!’ A loud ‘woof’ from Frankie greeted the mention of his name and everyone laughed. Not to be outdone, Frasier then stood up and suggested that perhaps the company should now consider that their excellent boss should now take another partner on a more permanent basis: the delectable Alice! A sudden silence descended as everyone, including Alice, glanced in the direction of her parents. Peter and Gloria looked at each other and nodded.

‘That would be a nice Christmas present’ smiled Gloria. Not to be outdone, Frankie bounded forward and sat in front of Kevin and Alice, his head inquisitively cocked on one side at the two: ‘Woof, woof’ as if to say ‘well, how about it then?’

Kevin turned and looked at the smiling face of Alice and asked ‘Would you like to ……’.the rest of his request was drowned out by loud applause as Alice quickly replied. ‘Yes please!’

Kevin looked around at all the expectant smiling faces of his new friends and then at the beaming face of his new bride-to-be. The smile on his face said it all and he could only mutter ‘Well, – that’s alright then!’

 

(c) Copyright Ken Wise 2012

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