Authors: John Creasey
Accuse The Toff
First published in 1943
Â© John Creasey Literary Management Ltd.; House of Stratus 1943-2013
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 2013 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.
|ISBN||Â ||EAN||Â ||Edition|
|0755135180||Â ||9780755135189||Â ||Print|
|075513852X||Â ||9780755138524||Â ||Kindle|
|0755136845||Â ||9780755136841||Â ||Epub|
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.
John Creasey â 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
for best novel and then in 1969 the ultimate
Grand Master Award
. John Creasey's stories are as compelling today as ever.
The Toff â or the Honourable Richard Rollison â was “born” in the twopenny weekly
in 1933 but it was not until 1938 that my father, John Creasey, first published books about him. At once the Toff took on characteristics all his own and became a kind of “
with his feet on the ground.” My father consciously used the Toff to show how well the Mayfair man-about-town could get on with the rough diamonds of the East End.
What gives the Toff his ever-fresh, ever-appealing quality is that he likes people and continues to live a life of glamour and romance while constantly showing (by implication alone) that all men are brothers under the skin.
I am delighted that the Toff is available again to enchant a whole new audience. And proud that my parents named me Richard after such an amazing role-model.
Richard Creasey is Chairman of
The Television Trust for the Environment
for the last 20 years
has been an executive producer for both BBC and ITV.
It was John Creasey who introduced him to the world of travel and adventure. Richard and his brother were driven round the world for 465 days in the back of their parents' car when they were five and six years old. In 1992 Richard led âThe Overland Challenge' driving from London to New York via the Bering Strait.
âI'll bet he's tough,' said the bus conductor admiringly. âYou've got to hand it to them Commando boys, yes sir, you've got to hand it to them.' He watched the thick-set man in battle-dress move across the pavement after jumping from the bus then rang the bell for the driver to start off. Peering through the gloom of the winter evening he lost sight of the Commando, shrugged and added: âI'll bet he's tough,' to a disinterested audience of passengers whose chief preoccupation was getting home before it grew really dark.
âI'll bet he is,' he repeated and clucked his tongue at the lack of response.
The soldier who had inspired the conductor's enthusiasm walked rapidly along the Chiswick High Road, intent on his progress, shouldering aside two or three people who were in his way: from them he earned approbrium, not blessings, but it was doubtful whether he heard them. Even at close quarters it was too dark for casual passers-by to see his face although they could discern the outlines of his revolver holster and the three stripes on his arms.
A clock in a nearby shop, where the shutters were being put up, struck six.
The sergeant hurried on and, had the light been better, many would have seen a strained expression on his face as if he were afraid of being late for an appointment of great importance.
He reached a side-street near Turnham Green and swung into it. From the several shops on the left-hand side of the road people were emerging, more shutters were being put into position and from one a chink of light showed; vivid in the blackout.
A car pulled into the kerb.
The sergeant was walking on the edge of the pavement and jumped to one side as a wing brushed against him. He turned round and rasped: âWhat the hell do you think you're doing?'
âI say, old boy, I
sorry,' said a plump little man at the driving-wheel. âNo damage, eh? That's good, that's goodâ'
He broke off, his voice ending on a gurgling note. His eyes were goggling towards the sergeant's right hand as the Commando snatched his revolver from its holster. The driver did not raise another shout, just flung himself to one side.
The roar of a revolver shot broke the quiet, hitherto disturbed only by hurrying footsteps and closing doors. A single flash of flame showed the car, the Commando and the driver who was slumping sideways. Someone screamed; three or four people stopped indeterminately. One man, bolder than the rest, ran forward. The Commando swung round on him and fired again. The bold pedestrian gasped, staggered back and then began to shout: âPolice! Police!'
Half a dozen others took up the cry. The Commando peered about then jumped towards the car and pulled the driver towards him; the conductor had been right, the man was tough. He hauled the driver on to the pavement, sending him sprawling to the ground, then jumped into the driver's seat.
Not far off a police whistle shrilled out. Nearer at hand, four or five men came together from a small shop and the Commando fired towards them without apparent reason. The roar of the shots and the flashes of flame merged with the startled gasps of the men, three of whom fell.
A fourth darted back into the shop, a fifth took to his heels and ran.
The Commando started shouting at the top of his voice, uttering vicious and obscene oaths which made a grotesque anticlimax to the violence of his shooting. The engine of the car turned but three or four men gained enough courage to rush at him and two reached the running-board, one an officer in RAF uniform. He flung his revolver at them, striking one in the face, then lunged out and pushed the second man into the road.
The Commando eased off the brakes while the RAF officer picked himself up, dusted his clothes, hesitated then turned and hurried away.
The car raced off, swerving past one cyclist but failing to avoid a second; there was a rending sound as a wing struck the back of a cycle, a scream as the cyclist went flying. The car passed the machine and rider, swung round a turning and then gathered speed. It had no lights and sent the traffic coming towards it into confusion. A policeman, knowing nothing of what had happened, bellowed and pointed towards the headlamps but the Commando ignored him. It was just light enough to see vague shapes and figures on the sidewalk while the lights from other cars and cyclists added to the glow. He wove in and out of the traffic, keeping his hand on the horn, sometimes emitting a high-pitched shout which made people stop and stare.
The headlamps of a car shone on him as it climbed a slight incline; in the eerie glow the sergeant's head was thrown well back, his mouth was wide open and he laughed with wild abandon.
Apparently he knew the road well. He swung across to take a right-hand turn, forcing another driver to jam on his brakes, a third car to bump into the one which had been forced to stop. The sergeant uttered a peal of fantastic laughter then sent the stolen car along the street into which he had turned.
Two cars commandeered by the police flashed past the entrance to the turning; the policemen saw the cars which had bumped, suspected what had happened and stopped and turned, making inquiries and having their suspicions confirmed. But they were too late to get results for the Commando sergeant had disappeared.
There was no trace, that night, of the stolen car.
At the scene of the shooting were two ambulances, a doctor and a crowd which gathered in spite of the attempts of the police to clear it way. Rumours spread swiftly, the most fantastic that twenty people had been killed, the most conservative that a dozen had been shot. The truth was better even than that; seven people had been wounded, two of them fatally and a third so badly that whether he lived or died rested with the surgeons.
The only clue to the identity of the killer was the revolver and promptly the police made contact with the War Office. The effort to trace the gun to its user began.
Superintendent Grice of Scotland Yard said, with some scepticism, that they would be lucky if there were any news within a week. Grice could be forgiven both scepticism and pessimism for he conducted the inquiries that evening and interrogated the slightly wounded as well as the spectators. All the stories were reasonably corroborative: the soldier had pushed his way through a crowd in the street, stepped to the edge of the pavement and been touched by the car. That slight mishap appeared to have turned his head for he had started the shooting then, haphazard and wild. Stories of his progress, after the shooting, of his high-pitched laughter â described by three people as demoniac â of his reckless driving, were carefully and painstakingly compiled.
By nine o'clock Grice had learned all he expected to and at long last consented to see the Press whose representatives were waiting with an eye on the clock. He gave them a story in a cold, precise fashion, leaving nothing out, and they went off fully satisfied. Already the national daily papers had sent reporters to seek first-hand personal stories of the
Commando Who Ran Amok
and, except for treatment and style, the stories which appeared in the various papers varied little. What was more surprising, the theories about the shooting were almost identical: a soldier had gone mad and fired at random at all whom he had passed. The parallel between the sensation and another, near the same place but some twelve months before, was drawn by each writer and the front pages of every newspaper devoted a headline and a few paragraphs to a subject only indirectly connected with the war. Another coincidence was widely reported. In the office above the shop a man named Ryson had been murdered two years before but the murderer had never been caught.
Amongst the millions of people in London who read the story was the Hon Richard Rollison. He read it more closely than most while drinking morning tea and sitting up in bed at his Gresham Terrace flat. He scanned two other versions, then heard the water running for his bath. He climbed thoughtfully out of bed and took his bath without making a comment to Jolly, his man, who was preparing breakfast. It was very cold and he saw frost on the roofs of houses nearby.
It was a source of considerable irritation to Rollison that he had been given a staff appointment at Whitehall. That the appointment carried with it the acting rank of Colonel did not appease him for he was a man who preferred an active life and a desk at Whitehall was no place for physical action. On the other hand his domicile in London, after two years either abroad or with his regiment in England, was a positive joy to Jolly.
That morning Rollison was not contemplating the office with the gloom which nearly always pervaded the beginning of his day.
Generally speaking, that gloom only existed before he reached and after he left the office for he was kept busy and he did not look kindly upon those who condemned all red tape and Brass Hats and those who did not take an active part in the fighting. He had no set notions about work being done behind the scenes; his prejudice was against his own part in it.
With the case of the
Commando Who Ran Amok
fresh in his mind, he approached the small breakfast-room â in reality an alcove off the sitting-room-cum-study â with something approaching relish. Jolly, thin, of medium height and with a perpetually gloomy expression heightened by the deep lines engraven on his face, was waiting by the hotplate. Rollison joined him, standing half a head taller, still showing something of the tan of Libyan sun â he had left North Africa long before the battle of Egypt had begun â a dark-haired, good-looking man with a thin dark moustache and a square, clear-cut chin. His tan made his teeth seem even whiter than they were. He did not comment upon the morsel of fish to be followed by an even smaller morsel of bacon and a generous helping of mushrooms but said: âYou could go on and on doing this, Jolly, couldn't you? Getting my tea, running my bath, cooking my breakfastâmy oath, I wonder you don't pick it up and throw it at me one day.'
âI should certainly not jeopardise a good situation, sir,' said Jolly, in whose melancholy eyes was a glimmer of a smile. âWill you have coffee or tea this morning?'
âThere you go,' deplored Rollison. âNot a single variation from the exasperating norm. Tea. Have you read the papers?'
âI glanced at them, sir.' Jolly deposited a plate on the table-mat and Rollison sat down. âI'll go and make the tea, sir.' He went into the kitchen and Rollison propped the
in front of him and read of the mad Commando again, thoughtfully, and with one eyebrow raised above the other.
Jolly returned with tea, and said: âA very nasty business at Chiswick last night, sir.'
âYe-es,' admitted Rollison.
âI suppose they'll catch the poor fellow soon,' said Jolly.
Rollison stared up at him, surprised.
âPoor fellow? The killer?'
âMadness is surely a thing to pity, sir.'
âH'm, yes,' said Rollison. âSo are the other poor beggars. Are you going to be busy this morning?'
âNo more than usual, sir.'
âGood. Don't worry about lunch, I'll have it at the Club. Pop along to Green Road, Chiswick, and have a look at the scene of the doings, will you? There should be plenty of people about who can tell you just where it happened.'
âYou don't thinkâ' began Jolly.
âI don't think anything about it,' declared Rollison firmly. âI'm curious, and have a nostalgic yearning. Just that and no more. If there were no war I'd be there myself.'
âIf there were no war there would be no Commandos,' said Jolly logically.
âThere would be men and guns,' Rollison reminded him darkly, âyou won't be looking for anything in particular but just getting an impression of what happened there last night. You might even try to contact one or two of the eye-witnesses. The driver of the car, for instance, wasn't badly hurt. A bullet grazed the top of his head, according to the
and just shaved his hair, according to the
His name's Ibbetson, a good North Country name suggesting a blunt man. Have a chat with him if you can and,' added Rollison grandly, âpretend that there's no war, that I'll be along soon, that the Commando didn't go mad but did it on purpose. Start off on that premise and see where it takes you.'
âIs that wise, sir?' asked Jolly, eyeing his employer squarely.
âWhy shouldn't it be?' demanded Rollison.
âYou'll remember advising me always to beware of the false premise,' said Jolly. âAnd in any case, sir, supposing by some remote chance there is more in it than meets the eye, you aren't likely to have an opportunity to do anything constructive.'
âThere is never any opportunity at all unless you make it yourself,' declared Rollison. âDon't moralise, mobilise!' He smiled, lighting a cigarette after finishing the mushrooms and while contemplating his second cup of tea. âYou may be right. You usually are and, when I get home tonight, I'll probably have forgotten it. But have a full report, will you, particularly from Mr. Ibbetson.'
As it transpired he did not forget the affair when he reached the office; and it happened that a batch of correspondence he expected to find waiting for him had been delayed and would not arrive until the afternoon. As that meant that he and the two members of his clerical staff would have to work well into the evening, he declared it fitting that they should take the morning off. He stayed in the office until half-past eleven then strolled along Whitehall thoughtfully, reaching Parliament Street and nodding towards a constable beating his arms about his chest while standing outside the iron gates of Scotland Yard. The constable smiled in turn and saluted and Rollison turned his steps towards the Yard. Determining that there was no sense at all in asking whether Superintendent Grice was in and, in any case, convinced that Grice would not have anything to tell him beyond what he read in the newspapers, so that a visit would be a waste of time, he reached the constable who wished him a bright good morning and said that it was cold.