It is a truth seldom acknowledged that the rich are just as much addicted to crime as the poor. In fact dear reader, one may go so far as to suggest that savage tribes living a primitive existence, present a far more edifying spectacle of respect for person and property, than some of the most cultivated aristocrats in Europe. Take for example, Lord Grid-Iron, Earl of West Peepyshire, Knight of the Purple Garter and Chancellor of the Exchequer. A third generation descendant of General Gordon Grid-Iron of Um Bongo Bongo, it is inconceivable that he should prove anything other than a patriarch and a patriot. Inconceivable! Alas dear reader that this should be the mooted truth, that he, a patriarch of empire and bastion of the countries finances, might be guilty of high treason! High treason! Alas! For the term speaks of conspiracies in the dead of night, of murderous plots effected in murky shadows, of inscrutable wickedness bent solely towards malevolent intent. The destruction of the British Empire and our queen with it!
“How long have you known?”
“That Lord Grid-Iron has been engaging in financial congress with the Russians? I shall have proof of it, once Inspector Depta arrives”
“Inspector Depta? What the devil does Depta have to do with it?”
“The information came through one of his informants, a Mrs Hayes I believe”
“Mrs Hayes? But isn’t she a blowen?”
“Quite so” replies Lord Palmerston examining some invisible stain on his gloves, “I am told that Lord Grid-Iron visits her often and that during the course of several of his…visits he has spoken of his financial arrangements with the Russians”
“With the Russians?!”
“It would seem that he has been supplying them with guns and munitions to the hurt of our cause in the Crimea, Prime Minister”
“But that’s unconscionable! For how long?”
Lord Palmerston is silent, which suggests to Prime Minister Aberdeen that he can’t know the extent of Lord Grid-Iron’s treachery. T’is often said that crime is but the offspring of poor breeding or degenerative disease, but Lord Grid-Iron’s criminality has been more the result of errant stupidity. Why the queen herself had expressed outrage at the very notion of Lord Grid-Iron running the economy, she had even gone so far as to proffer her Hindu Munshi as a replacement, but the Prime Minister would have none of it.
“The role of Chancellor of the Exchequer has been held by three generations of the Grid-Iron family, not to appoint him would be an insult!”
“Then insult him!” cried the queen trembling with indignation,”But pray, do not place him in charge of the nation’s purse! The man is an imbecile! I should know, he’s my sixth cousin!”. The Prime Minister disagreeing with his queen, raised one firm eyebrow, gracefully bowed his head and hastily withdrew from her majesty’s presence. Alas, that Lord Aberdeen had not abided by her majesty’s judgement! For here they now sat, debating the potential fall of a Whig government .
“As to law” Lord Palmerston continued,”The charge is obvious, high treason but the question is this, could this government countenance the scandal?”
“It could not! As well you know! But what choice have we in the matter? The man has sullied his honour and betrayed our great empire! What other outcome could there possibly be?”
“His disappearance could be discretely ordered and just as discretely arranged, but that would also give rise to a charge of high treason. An undesirable state of affairs, most undesirable, unless” and here Lord Palmerston coughed discretely into his scented handkerchief.
“Unless?” asked Lord Aberdeen a look of desperate irritation upon his face,
“Unless….ah! Inspector Depta! But what time call you this?!”
“Pardoning your lor’ship such time as I could make, given the vicissitudes of St Giles!” Inspector Depta jerked his thumb towards a pew at the rear of the cathedral and in which he had deposited a dishevelled heap of a man. “Up at the crack of dawn an ain’t had a moments peace since…what with one thing….and another” he eyed Lord Aberdeen surreptitiously,”Take Mrs Hayes for instance, running an owse of most ill-repute! Terrible it was in there! Terrible! We’ve ‘ad er in custody since the crack of dawn!”
Coughing politely Lord Palmerston asked,”But what of her clientele?”
“Very polite considerin, middle class gents solely! T’was too early in the morn for the other sort! ”
“The other sort?”
“Upper class gents, here’s my report!” dipping his bear like paw into a pocket inside his coat he pulled out a scroll tied with pink ribbon, this he handed directly to Lord Palmerston who in turn handed it to Lord Aberdeen. A glance passed then between the inspector of the Bow Street force and Lord Palmerston who had perused the ‘report’ a week earlier. Indeed the instant his eyes had fallen upon that foul parchment, he had come to the conclusion that Lord Grid-Iron must be done away with, but how to carry it out? No peer of the realm would contemplate being complicit in an act that could lead to their being hung, drawn and quartered!
“Oh god, oh dear god, oh dear god…” Prime Minister Aberdeen paled visibly as his eyes roved over the report, till at length he thrust it from him and leaping to his feet cried out,”Great god! How could he? Such heinous treachery! How could he?!”
“Indeed” demurred Lord Palmerston his eyes twinkling with a mirth no one else in that cathedral dared share,
“Now the question is, what are we to do about this?”
“Is he still married?” Prime Minister Aberdeen asked, his face hardening by degrees,
“To the American? Of course he is!”
“Then there really isn’t a problem, is there?” he narrowed his eyes,” We have a ‘package’ that needs dispatching, Inspector Depta?”
Stifling a grin the Inspector inclined his head,”M’lord!”
“You have worked with Pinkerton detectives in the past have you not?”
“We require you to work with them again as per the abduction and discrete removal of Lord Grid-Iron. The crown requires that you call on them with all speed!”
“A Pinkerton yer Lordship? In England?!”
Lord Palmerston smiled, “As a rule this Pinkerton goes by the nomenclature of Mrs Kitty Warne”
“Bloody hell! Er!” exclaimed the Inspector his eyes twinkling with merriment, “With pleasure yer Lordship, but pray, what is the address?”
“Sloane Square, Grid-Iron Mansions she is the wife of Lord Grid-Iron!”