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Authors: John Creasey

An Affair For the Baron

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Affair for the Baron

 

First published in 1967

© John Creasey Literary Management Ltd.; House of Stratus 1967-2014

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

The right of John Creasey to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.

This edition published in 2014 by House of Stratus, an imprint of

Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Fore Street, Looe,

Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.

Typeset by House of Stratus.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.

 

EAN
 
ISBN
 
Edition
0755131703
 
9780755131709
 
Print
0755133730
 
9780755133734
 
Kindle
0755134117
 
9780755134113
 
Epub
0755145348
 
9780755145348
 
Epdf

 

This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author's imagination.

Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.

 

www.houseofstratus.com

About the Author

 

John Creasey – Master Storyteller - was born in Surrey, England in 1908 into a poor family in which there were nine children, John Creasey grew up to be a true master story teller and international sensation. His more than 600 crime, mystery and thriller titles have now sold 80 million copies in 25 languages. These include many popular series such as
Gideon of Scotland Yard, The Toff, Dr Palfrey and The Baron
.

Creasey wrote under many pseudonyms, explaining that booksellers had complained he totally dominated the ‘C' section in stores. They included:

 

Gordon Ashe, M E Cooke, Norman Deane, Robert Caine Frazer, Patrick Gill, Michael Halliday, Charles Hogarth, Brian Hope, Colin Hughes, Kyle Hunt, Abel Mann, Peter Manton, J J Marric, Richard Martin, Rodney Mattheson, Anthony Morton and Jeremy York.

 

Never one to sit still, Creasey had a strong social conscience, and stood for Parliament several times, along with founding the
One Party Alliance
which promoted the idea of government by a coalition of the best minds from across the political spectrum.

He also founded the
British Crime Writers' Association
, which to this day celebrates outstanding crime writing.
The Mystery Writers of America
bestowed upon him the
Edgar Award
for best novel and then in 1969 the ultimate
Grand Master Award
. John Creasey's stories are as compelling today as ever.

Chapter One

Near Miss

The girl nearly slipped as she jumped out of the yellow taxi, and the driver said: “Careful, miss.”

She gave a quick, almost haunted smile over her shoulder, and slammed the door, which did not latch. The taxi driver leaned over, struggling with the door as the girl ran towards the entrance of the station, carrying one small briefcase. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a fallen glove; he heaved a great sigh, and bellowed: “Hey, miss!”

Even if she heard, the girl ignored him.

The taxi driver watched her, still running, and was puzzled; no train was due to leave Pennsylvania Station in the next minute or so. He muttered: “What's the hurry?” Slowly descending from his taxi, he bumped into a young man jumping from a black sedan which was pulling up alongside. The man, short and lightly built, went staggering back; the taxi driver, solid as a piece of Brooklyn granite, glared irately.

What he saw startled him. There was sheer malevolence in the other's dark eyes; viciousness in the pale, handsome face. And behind him, the driver of the sedan was swearing.

The taxi driver, toughened and roughened by countless encounters with human nature, knew trouble when he saw it. He muttered again: “Excuse me,” and rounded the back of his cab. The man he had bumped into recovered and raced off, and the sedan moved away. Looking over his shoulder, the taxi driver saw the girl disappearing beneath the low ceiling of bared pipes and cables; Pennsylvania Station was in the discordant throes of reconstruction. The young man appeared to be going after her, but nobody bothered, or took particular notice.

The driver leaned into his cab, picked up the off-white glove and slapped it against his hand, until both man and girl were out of sight. He said aloud: “It's no skin off my nose.”

He climbed back into his seat and started the engine. Not far along, a traffic policeman was controlling the steady flow of taxis and private cars; he was an elderly, grey-haired man who looked tired and weary in his blue-grey uniform; the revolver sticking out of his belt was only the flourish of a regulation outfit. The taxi driver slowed down alongside him.

“Hi, Sam.”

“Hi, Andy.”

“You see that?”

“What am I supposed to see?”

“That guy who got out of a moving sedan.”

“I guess he didn't want to miss his train.”

The taxi driver asked: “What train?”

The policeman shrugged, then shouted at a couple of drivers, who were coming along too fast. The taxi driver, glove still in his hand, shrugged and eased off his brakes; but he was hemmed in. He glanced towards the main hall of the embryo new station, torn between curiosity, a sense of danger for the girl, and the need to keep out of trouble.

As he waited, a man got out of a taxi which had pulled up just in front of him.

He was tall and good-looking, and unostentatiously English in his dark grey tweeds and brogues. His eyes were brown, and surprisingly bright as he glanced keenly up and down, his gaze finally settling on the dismantled entrance to the station. For a moment he stood rigidly locked in some kind of tension, then suddenly his whole body relaxed and he smiled. The smile gave him a cavalier brightness, as, watched by his own cabby and the policeman, he stepped towards the driver of the girl's taxi.

“Hallo,” he said in a deep, English voice. “Have you seen a black Chrysler sedan in the past minute or two?”

“Sure have.”

The stranger's eyes seemed to brighten still more. “Did a young man get out, in a hurry?”

“Sure did.”

“Where did he go?”

“That way,” the taxi driver said, and as he spoke he moved his left arm, touching the window. He was still holding the glove, and the Englishman looked at it with sudden attention. Even the policeman, impatient with anything which blocked the carriageway, eyed it interestedly.

“Did you have a girl passenger, just now?” the stranger asked.

Startled, the driver said: “So if I did?”

“A blonde, wearing a honey-brown suit and pale doeskin gloves?” The Englishman stared at the single glove.

“Why, I sure had me a passenger like that!” the taxi driver exclaimed.

“Say, mister—” began the traffic policeman.

The Englishman seemed to do three things in the same moment. He thrust a bill into the hand of the driver who had brought him, gave another to the driver who held the glove; and he took the glove away.

“I'll give this to her,” he promised. “She'll be very grateful to you.”

He smiled again as he turned away, moving with ease and speed. Half-a-dozen women glanced at him, and a pretty young girl turned to stare. He disappeared into the mass of scaffolding, bricks, cement and lumber which filled the huge circular entrance to the station. A hundred or more people were in sight, most weighed down with suitcases, and his gaze touched them all as he sought the man he had followed; or the girl who had lost a glove.

It was exactly one minute past five p.m. by the big clock over the ticket offices.

The girl who had lost the glove stood by one of the windows of the ticket office, trying to restrain both impatience and fear. She carried the briefcase under one arm, as if nervous of losing it; now and again she glanced over her shoulder. A middle-aged woman behind her was shifting from one foot to the other with weary impatience, the glance of a man at the next window raked her up and down, coming to rest on the gentle line of her bosom. A rotund commercial traveller seemed unable to keep his eyes from swivelling towards her face. The woman ahead of her, buying a ticket, had launched into a hundred-and-one trifling questions, and under her breath, the girl muttered: “Oh, do
hurry up
!”

As if hearing her, the woman collected her change and sidled away. A sharp-faced male clerk in shirt-sleeves looked at the girl, without speaking.

“I want—” she began, in an English voice – then, suddenly, she broke off. A man had appeared within her line of vision – the young, lightly built man who had so affected the taxi driver.

“What do you want?” the clerk asked flatly.

She moistened her lips.

“I want a ticket to Chicago, please.”

“On the Broadway Limited?”

The girl, watching the young man, saw the furtive, sly look he shot towards her.

“I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.”

“Make up your mind, miss,” the clerk said. “Do you want to go by the Broadway Limited?”

“Is that—is that a good train?”

“Is it—” the clerk began, aghast, and then he stated simply: “It's the world's best.”

“I'd like a first class ticket, please.” The girl glanced round, but the young man had moved out of sight.

“You from England?” the clerk inquired, with sudden interest.

“Yes.”

“They do things different over there,” he announced, forgivingly. “I can sell you a coach car ticket, but you'll need a Pullman or a bedroom – unless you want to sit up all night.”

She looked at him, with quite beautiful grey eyes.

“I'm sorry,” she said, in a low-pitched voice, “but I—I've had rather a shock. What time does the train get to Chicago?”

“Nine o'clock, ma'am.”

“Tonight?”

“Now listen,” the clerk protested, “it's close on nine hundred miles. Are you sure you want to go to Chicago?”

“Oh, yes,” she said hurriedly. “I've—I've friends there. Did you say a bedroom?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“By myself?”

“For your exclusive use, surely.”

“I'd like one,” she decided. She opened her handbag, then her purse, and eased out a thick wad of bills. “How much will it be?”

“Ninety dollars ninety-two cents.”

She pulled out two fifty-dollar bills with great deliberation.

The clerk fed a ticket into the machine, then lifted a telephone, spoke briskly, wrote down some numbers, and after a few seconds gave the girl the ticket, the bedroom slip and her change.

“Leaving six o'clock, ma'am. Track nine,” he said.

“Thank you.” She moved on, then paused to slip the change into her bag. As she did so, the young man who had jumped out of the black Chrysler appeared at her elbow. He looked down at her, half-smiling – a smile that carried no amusement, no reassurance.

“Okay,” he grated, “I'll have it.” He stretched a hand towards the briefcase, but the girl swung sharply away from him, clutching it to her.

The man moved swiftly after her, gripping her arm with strong, vice-like fingers.

“You've forgotten your father haven't you?” he muttered under his breath. “If you don't want to make a lot of trouble for the guy, you'll act normal – and you'll let me have that case.”

The girl gasped, as if something close to terror touched her.


Where is he
?”

“Just give me the briefcase and he'll sleep easier tonight,” the man said. He made a swift darting movement, snatching the case from her. “Listen, you. Don't talk to anyone—to the police, or anyone. Don't even say you lost this, just forget it. Go back to England on the first flight you can make. Otherwise the world will know your father and stolen goods go together. Understand me?”

He moved away without waiting for a reply, the briefcase gripped firmly beneath his arm.

The girl stood staring after him.

The crowds of passengers surged backwards and forwards, each person intent on his own business; no one appeared to have witnessed what had just happened, or if they had, no one appeared to care. Nobody approached, nobody spoke, as the girl watched the young man who had taken the briefcase stride quickly away.

Suddenly, another man, a stranger to the girl, barged heavily into him.

This second man was dressed in grey tweeds, and was tall and powerful; the younger one reeled away, and then began to stagger. Almost at the same moment, the tall man turned out of the main hall, moving very fast. The girl hardly realised what had happened, and yet there was the evidence of her eyes. The
tall
man now had the briefcase, and the other was still trying to regain his balance. The girl began to run after the new owner, but as she did so a red-capped porter touched her arm.

“This is for you, miss,” he said, and held out a slip of paper. She brushed it aside distractedly, but the porter persisted. “Please read this, miss,” he pleaded, and she looked down and saw a note printed in block capitals. It was almost impossible not to read:

GO ON TO CHICAGO – YOU'LL GET YOUR CASE BACK THERE.

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