Read The End Game Online

Authors: Michael Gilbert

Tags: #The End Game

The End Game

BOOK: The End Game
13.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Copyright & Information

The End Game


First published in 1982

© Estate of Michael Gilbert; House of Stratus 1982-2012


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 Michael Gilbert to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.


This edition published in 2012 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.




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.

About the Author



Born in Lincolnshire, England, Michael Francis Gilbert graduated in law from the University of London in 1937, shortly after which he first spent some time teaching at a prep-school which was followed by six years serving with the Royal Horse Artillery. During World War II he was captured following service in North Africa and Italy, and his prisoner-of-war experiences later leading to the writing of the acclaimed novel
‘Death in Captivity’
in 1952.

After the war, Gilbert worked as a solicitor in London, but his writing continued throughout his legal career and in addition to novels he wrote stage plays and scripts for radio and television. He is, however, best remembered for his novels, which have been described as witty and meticulously-plotted espionage and police procedural thrillers, but which exemplify realism.

HRF Keating stated that
‘Smallbone Deceased’
was amongst the 100 best crime and mystery books ever published.
“The plot,”
wrote Keating, “
is in every way as good as those of Agatha Christie at her best: as neatly dovetailed, as inherently complex yet retaining a decent credibility, and as full of cunningly-suggested red herrings.”
It featured Chief Inspector Hazlerigg, who went on to appear in later novels and short stories, and another series was built around Patrick Petrella, a London based police constable (later promoted) who was fluent in four languages and had a love for both poetry and fine wine. Other memorable characters around which Gilbert built stories included Calder and Behrens. They are elderly but quite amiable agents, who are nonetheless ruthless and prepared to take on tasks too much at the dirty end of the business for their younger colleagues. They are brought out of retirement periodically upon receiving a bank statement containing a code.

Much of Michael Gilbert’s writing was done on the train as he travelled from home to his office in London:
“I always take a latish train to work,” he explained in 1980, “and, of course, I go first class. I have no trouble in writing because I prepare a thorough synopsis beforehand.”.
After retirement from the law, however, he nevertheless continued and also reviewed for
‘The Daily Telegraph’
, as well as editing
‘The Oxford Book of Legal Anecdotes’

Gilbert was appointed CBE in 1980. Generally regarded as ‘one of the elder statesmen of the British crime writing fraternity, he was a founder-member of the British Crime Writers’ Association and in 1988 he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, before receiving the Lifetime ‘Anthony’ Achievement award at the 1990 Boucheron in London.

Michael Gilbert died in 2006, aged ninety three, and was survived by his wife and their two sons and five daughters.



The police car slid quietly down the long, empty street. The widely-spaced lighting left pools of blackness midway between the overhead standards.

“Creepy sort of place,” said Detective Sergeant Brannigan.

“More cheerful by daylight,” agreed Detective Constable Wrangle. He was driving the car.

“Pull up for a moment. I want to have a look.”

The roadway was enclosed on both sides by a wooden wall made of ten-foot planks set vertically in the ground and held together by rows of metal strip. The bottom of the fence was buried in a thick belt of marram grass. Alder and thorn, the trees that grow quickest when men depart, had pushed their shoots through the cracks and were already tall enough to top the wall.

“Been like this long?”

“Long as I can remember,” said Wrangle. “Must be more’n six years since they shut the East Docks.”

“What used to be there?”

“Offices and sheds. Marine stores, ship repairers, bonded warehouses, places like that. When the ships stopped coming here, they got no customers so they all cleared out.”

“I remember it how it used to be in the old days,” said Brannigan. “When I was a kid, we lived over on Porthead Road. I remember when the docks was crowded with ships. Albion, Canada, Russia, Quebec, Princess – busy all day long, and most of the night, too, you could see the loading going on. Nothing at all, now.”

“Bloody shame,” agreed Wrangle. He wondered if this was a moment when he could offer the Sergeant a cigarette. He hadn’t known him long enough to be sure. The Sergeant was a recent arrival in the Division and was reputed to be hot on discipline.

“Bloody mismanagement,” said Brannigan. “Crowd of bloody old women. Think of nothing but their own pockets.” He kicked the planking thoughtfully. “You ever been inside?”

“Once or twice. Few years ago the Friary Lane crowd started using one of the empty sheds as a store for stuff they’d nicked from the goods yard at Malvern Steps. We got a tip-off and raided the place. Caught them with their pants down.” He grinned. “Once you’re in, there’s no way out, see.”

“Plenty of ways out on the other side, surely? I remember the kids used to get in and out like rabbits.”

“You’d have to be a very small rabbit to do it now,” said Wrangle. “They’ve put up a twelve-foot fence on three sides. Diamond mesh. Not big enough to get your toe in. You’d get over it with a grapnel and a rope easy enough, but not if you was in a hurry.”

“So you nicked the lot?”

“That’s right. They got a handful each. They’d just about be out by now. Not that they give us a lot of trouble here. There’s nothing to attract them.”

“Then why do they bother about that?” said Brannigan. He pointed to a notice on the wall which said, “Warning. This place is patrolled by Guard Dogs. Keep out.”

“That’s a load of cock. They did have a dog in there once. Soon after they shut it down, that was. It disappeared.”

Brannigan climbed back into the car. He said, “Go on. You tell me. I suppose the rats ate it.”

“The rats or the toe-rags. They got some way of getting in and they sleep in the sheds. In the summer, that is.”

“Hold it,” said Brannigan.

In the shadows ahead something had moved. Wrangle flicked on the spotlight.

“Like I said,” said Wrangle. “One of our hotel’s five-star customers.”

The tramp, pinned against the wall by the blade of light, had thrown up an arm to protect his eyes. He was skeleton-thin, fragile enough to be blown away by the first puff of wind.

“Let’s have a look at you,” said Brannigan. He climbed out of the car. The tramp slowly lowered his arm.

“Why, if it isn’t Percy!” said Wrangle.

The tramp smiled nervously.

“You know him?”

“One of our regulars.”

“What are you up to, Percy?”

“Just taking a little walk, Sergeant.”

Brannigan checked for a moment. It was the voice that stopped him. The voice and intonation of an educated man. Then he said, “You’ve got no right to be hanging round at this time of night. I’ve a good mind to run you in.”

“You can’t do that,” said the tramp. “I have the wherewithal for a night’s lodgings.”

He held out one hand, palm upwards, with a shining fifty-pence piece in it.

Brannigan knocked his hand up, and the coin went spinning into the gutter. The tramp dropped on his knees, whining like a child, and clutched at it before it disappeared down the grating. Then he got to his feet, swaying slightly.

“You hit me,” he said. “You had no right to do that.”

“Don’t you tell me what I’ve got the right to do and what I haven’t got the right to do. People like you, I’ve got the right to do anything I like with. You’re rubbish. You’re nothing.”

He stretched out his big hands, caught the tramp by the lapels of his coat and lifted him. He weighed no more than a child. He held him for a moment, his face a few inches from his own. He could see the tears of weakness and fury trickling down the caved-in cheeks.

“I’m a citizen,” said the tramp. “I’ve the right of every citizen to be treated fairly.”

Brannigan put him down on the pavement with a thump, turned about and climbed back into the car.

“Does he always carry on like that?”

“Only when he’s lit,” said Wrangle.

“Is that right?”

“Hopped to the eyebrows.”

“Where the hell would a man like that get the money to buy dope?”

“I expect there’s money in the family,” said Wrangle. “Must have been. You can see he’s been educated.”

“Hasn’t done him much good, has it?”

As the car moved off he looked back. The tramp had sunk back into the shadows and become part of them.

“It’s funny to think,” said Wrangle, who was feeling philosophical, “that when Percy was a kid his old man sends him to Eton and Harrow and all that caper and thinks, one day my son may be prime minister.”

“It’s mothers think about their daughters that way now,” said Brannigan sourly. He was a male radical.

For a full five minutes after the car had gone, the tramp stayed still, like an animal that has been frightened. When he moved he kept close to the fence. As he walked his lips were working. He seemed to be counting. Two lamp standards and six paces later he stopped again.

At this point, a plane tree on the far side of the paling had grown to such a height that it was already well clear of the top. Its strong roots, growing outwards, had undermined the footing of that particular plank and had worked it loose. Over the years, the parasites which feed on wood had followed the roots down and completed the job. The plank looked secure enough, but in fact it was held in position only by the three lines of metal strip. The first and the third lines had been carefully severed, so that when the tramp pressed on the bottom of the plank it swung inwards, pivoting on the centre strip. The tramp went down on to hands and knees and wriggled through without difficulty, pushing the plank back into position behind him.

BOOK: The End Game
13.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Read My Lips by Herbenick, Debby, Schick, Vanessa
Jessica Meigs - The Becoming by Brothers in Arms
The Four Books by Yan Lianke
Before I Say Good-Bye by Mary Higgins Clark
Money in the Bank by P G Wodehouse
Young Thongor by Adrian Cole, Lin Carter
Pirate's Price by Aubrey Ross