Authors: Sally Spencer
Table of Contents
BLACKSTONE AND THE TIGER
BLACKSTONE AND THE GOLDEN EGG
BLACKSTONE AND THE FIRE BUG
BLACKSTONE AND THE BALLOON OF DEATH
BLACKSTONE AND THE HEART OF DARKNESS
BLACKSTONE AND THE NEW WORLD
BLACKSTONE AND THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
BLACKSTONE AND THE GREAT WAR
BLACKSTONE AND THE ENDGAME
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First published in Great Britain and the USA 2013 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2013 by Alan Rustage.
The right of Sally Spencer to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Blackstone and the endgame. â (A Sam Blackstone mystery ;
1. Blackstone, Sam (Fictitious character)âFiction.
2. PoliceâEnglandâLondonâFiction. 3. Great Britainâ
HistoryâGeorge V, 1910-1936âFiction. 4. Detective and
I. Title II. Series
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8289-9 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-444-7 (epub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This eBook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
or days, the wind blowing off the Thames covered half of London in a cold, damp overcoat. Women who had forgotten how much their bones could ache were suddenly reminded just how bad winter could be. Men who had boasted about being in the rudest of health were starting to cough up bloodied phlegm. And the children, whose natural life was always on the street, found themselves huddled over the fireplace in their cramped kitchens when their parents could afford the coal â and sometimes, out of habit, even when they couldn't.
But at least there was no fog, people said, in an attempt to sound philosophical â at least they'd been spared that.
And then the fog came. It was what was called a real pea-souper â though, in fact, it was more yellow than green. It held, within it, particles of carbon and sulphur which were eager to find new homes in the lungs of the weak and feeble. It wrapped itself, like poison ivy, around every building and lamppost. It slowed London down, but it did not halt it, because life still had to be lived, even in the middle of a poisonous cloud.
Southwark's New Cut street market had been as much a victim of the fog as everywhere else, and customers floated like ghosts between the stalls and barrows, guided only by the fuzzy light provided by the paraffin lamps which each stall holder had brought with him.
But now some of those lights were going out, Harry Danes noted. Now, some of the other costermongers were packing up and going home.
It was the ones who sold second-hand clothes and tools who were leaving, Danes told himself.
And they might as well. If they stayed, they would probably sell nothing more that night, and their merchandise â as unattractive as it was â would still find ready buyers amongst the poor, who had no other choice, in the morning. But if you sold fruit and veg â like he did â you had to stay until the bitter bloody end, however slight your chance of making a sale, because your goods were rotting even as they sat there.
Not that there was much left to sell, he thought, looking down at the miserable offerings laid out on his barrow. Not that, in all honesty, there'd been much to sell when he'd
the night's trading.
Life had been hard before the war, but nothing like as hard as it was now. The German U-boats were partly to blame â Danes had lost count of how many merchant ships they'd sunk in the last few months. But it was also due to the fact that instead of working on the land, all the young men were busy dying on the Western Front â and because the government was spending so much money on killing foreigners that it had none left to look after its own people.
It was as he speculated on the total futility of war that he first noticed the tramp, although â for all he knew â the poor sod could have been standing there for some time.
The tramp was tall â over six feet. He was as thin as a rake and had a bushy grey beard and watery eyes.
There were some tramps who loved the vagabond existence â positively thrived on it â Danes thought, but this wasn't one of them.
âCan I help you, mate?' Danes asked.
The tramp hesitated. âI'd like some foodâ'
âI can give you a turnip, if you like,' Danes interrupted him. âIt's not much, I know, but it's all I can spare.'
âIt's very kind of you, and I do want it,' the tramp said, then added firmly, âbut I don't want it
âNo. You look to me like a man who's got a family to support â¦'
âYou're right there, pal, I have. But one little turnip isn't going to make much diffâ'
ââ¦ so if you can sell it, then that's what you should do. I only want it if you'll definitely be throwing it away.'
He was a strange tramp, Danes thought â very strange indeed.
âDon't I know you?' he asked.
The tramp shook his head.
âI'm sure I do,' the costermonger insisted. âDidn't you used to be â¦'
âI have to go,' the tramp said. Then he turned awkwardly and disappeared into the fog.
Danes scratched his head. ââ¦ a copper?' he said, completing his sentence, though now there was no one to hear it. âA detective inspector from Scotland Yard?'
His week on the run had taken its toll, Sam Blackstone realized, as he pushed his aching body to its limits in an effort to put as great a distance between himself and the costermonger as possible.
He had spent his nights shivering in dark, dank corners, and his days watching out for the policemen who he knew must be searching for him. He had fed on cabbage leaves and stalks he had picked up outside restaurants. Once, he had found a squashed â but still burning â cigarette end on the ground, and it had taken all his discipline â all his remaining self-respect â not to bend down and pick it up. And finally, on what was now his seventh day as a fugitive, he had given in to the demands of his growling stomach and risked the visit to the New Cut.
But it wasn't really much of a risk, now was it?
asked a mocking demon hidden deep in the back of his mind.
You're only taking a risk if you've got something to lose, and what does a dying man
âI'm not dying,' Blackstone said, in a voice that was weak and cracked, but still loud enough to cause several people to turn their heads.
He stopped walking and clung to the nearest lamppost for support.
âI'm not dying,' he said again â though in a softer tone this time.
Yet he knew that he was.
He had fought Afghan tribesmen and New York gangsters â he had been shot at, stabbed, and beaten â and he had survived. But now he was dying.
He would probably not die that night â or even that week. He might live for a month or two, but, in the end, the hunger and the cold â adding to the desperation and the disappointment that already weighed him down â would see him off.
And dying was not even the worst possible ending.
Far more terrible was the prospect of being caught.
He had a vision of himself standing in the dock while the prosecutor tore his story apart with a contempt reserved only for the most despicable criminals. He could see the disgust in the eyes of the jury as the story unfolded, and hear the cold, vengeful tone in the judge's voice as he passed sentence.
What happened after that â whatever sentence was imposed â didn't really matter. It was the trial he dreaded. It was those few days when everything he had ever worked for â everything he had ever believed in â first rounded on him and then condemned him.
âHow did I ever get into this situation?' he wondered.
But it was only a rhetorical question. He
how he had got into it. He even knew exactly when and where it had started â could pin it down to that moment when he first looked across the desk at Superintendent Brigham.
t was just over two weeks to Christmas, and Blackstone stood at his office window looking down on the ragged men on the Victoria Embankment who were attempting to sell Christmas trees to the people passing by.
It wouldn't be a very joyous Christmas that year, he thought. How could it be, when almost every family in the country had sent its young men to fight on the Western Front â and so many of those families had already learned that their young men wouldn't be coming back.
âI think there should be a law making it illegal for criminals not to work over Christmas,' said a voice behind him.
Blackstone turned around to look at his sergeant, Archie Patterson, who was sitting back with his size-ten boots resting on his desk, and tearing a piece of paper into tiny strips.
âWhat was that you just said, Archie?' he asked.
âIt's always the same,' Patterson complained. âIt gets to this time of year and the criminal fraternity decide they don't want to be nicked and spend Christmas behind bars. So what do they do? For two or three weeks, they act just like ordinary decent citizens. And where does that leave us â the guardians of law and order? I'll tell you where it leaves us, Sam. It leaves us stuck here in this bloody office â and it's not right!'
Blackstone grinned. âI'd never thought of it quite that way before,' he said. âBut you're spot on â the criminal fraternity should be a little more considerate of our needs. So why don't we go out and find a couple of bank robbers, point them towards the nearest bank, andâ'
âYou're just being silly, now, sir,' Patterson said, still sounding aggrieved at life in general.