Hammersmith: A Prisoner Goes Missing (part one)

Pastel drawing of 1800s farmhouse


A Prisoner Goes Missing
(part one)






“Now, it’s true, the Seltons have their origins in Nottinghamshire. So far as circus people have origins. It’s also true they were in France, waiting out their creditors, at the time Charley hatched. He was the eldest, second Mrs. Selton’s first. Then came Cedric, then Cyril. After that, twin girls, Victorina and Ruth. Singing act.”

“Wait a second. The brothers are all cees…how come the girls…”

It puzzled Shaw, the Selton nomenclature. Medlow, however, not.

“Don’t carry on like that, Shaw. I’m only explaining.”

This last with a side glance, rueful, at Commander Washburn. It would soon become Shaw’s responsibility to have fathomed the full dossier—provided to Medlow by the client. To his agents, Medlow did not disclose the names of clients.

“Thoroughgoing show people. Earn their keep from the cradle, the Chillingsworths. That’s the name they took when they turned American. Never been vaudevillians, exactly. Stunt artists, more like. Our Charley had to part company with Ringling…some trouble over borrowing a tiger. Water tank you heard tell of, more a carnival act, arcade feature…theater owners ain’t like to have to do with it. Next seen, Philly, stage comedian. Can play a little piano. When, Shaw, did Cedric and Cyril show up?”

“Some time after he dug in at Swan’s. Mr. Piggott was pretty certain he saw a letter change hands. Between him and Hogben, I mean. Not Swan, the Professor. Mossbunker’s plans got in the way of Piggott having a talk with Hogben. And then…”

It would take some disingenuousness. Shaw, derailed by the flood, dispatching to his boss from Derfinger’s, had been walking down every day, checking for telegrams. He had known of no Zetland in the picture.

And if you’ve done your best convincing a dodgy customer you’ve got a job for him, hinting your man has the money of a Mossbunker (which the U.S. government, if not the fortune of a J. P. Morgan, did), and then a woman (Aimee Bard) you’ve made the acquaintance of comes at you dropping strangers’ names, accuses you of being on Cranston terms with Mossbunker…

And next, you find your quarry upstairs cahooting with this Ludi…

And next (but for Minnie’s sake—no concern of Medlow’s), you end up joining the gang…

“Shaw, make sense,” Medlow suggested.

“McKeefe hasn’t got any doors that lock, is the trouble.”

“Where’s he keep the till?”

“Sir, I…”

“I get what you’re saying,” Washburn intervened. “That hullaballoo Oldfield ginned up. McKeefe says he doesn’t have a stick of furniture left, and all the panes out the windows.”

This remark relaxed the pouches of Medlow’s eyes, those which signaled, when approaching the close and narrow stage, a writing-up. Oldfield was a rabble-rouser, a proven anarchist, a sort of boss to Nico Raymond.

As to the broken back door, Shaw had helped Curach kick it free.






A Prisoner Goes Missing

Virtual book cover for novella HammersmithA Prisoner Goes Missing (part two)















(2019, Stephanie Foster)



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