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Authors: John Creasey

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The Toff and the Stolen Tresses

Copyright & Information

The Toff and The Stolen Tresses

 

First published in 1958

© John Creasey Literary Management Ltd.; House of Stratus 1958-2014

 

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.

 

ISBN
 
EAN
 
Edition
075513656X
 
9780755136568
 
Print
0755139895
 
9780755139897
 
Kindle
0755138244
 
9780755138241
 
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.

 

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
Goldilocks

 

‘Sometimes I get so mad that I could have it cut off,' said Evelyn Day, ‘or else have it dyed jet black. No one ever calls out “Blackbird” to Anne, and she has just as much hair as I have.'

She was flushed. Her blue eyes sparkled because she was annoyed. She looked lovely. She made James Matthison Jones long to take her in his arms and hold and hug her, but he was a wise young man, and did not follow his inclination. He was tall as well as wise, and had a chunky kind of face and a look, even when he was serious, of drollery. Now he smiled at her.

‘You'd rather cut off your hand than your hair,' he said.

‘Oh, don't talk such utter nonsense,' retorted Evelyn Day. ‘Sometimes I wonder what you have for a mind. The next man who calls me Goldilocks, I'll—I'll—'

‘Goldilocks,' said Jimmy Jones, promptly. ‘It's the loveliest hair I've ever seen, and I don't care who calls you Goldilocks. I like to think that other people get a kick out of it, too.'

‘I'm not surprised that you're fond of hair,' said Evelyn, tartly. ‘You'll be bald before you're thirty.'

He was twenty-eight, and the prophecy was by no means baseless. He found his right hand smoothing over his bald patch. He did this for some time, while the laughter no longer lurked in but positively leapt out of his eyes.

‘You've plenty for two,' he declared. ‘How about fixing a date before anyone can accuse me of marrying you for your hair?'

Her look of annoyance faded and the anger went out of her eyes, while she touched the back of his right hand very lightly. They were sitting at a table in the Embankment Gardens during a lunch time in late May, and the wallflowers and tulips, the forget-me-nots and the polyanthus made a wonderful show, the lunch-hour band was playing not far away, and London's office workers were walking to and fro, only here and there was anyone in a hurry. All the seats along the paths were taken by people, young and old, eating sandwiches or fruit or chocolate. Behind them on the embankment proper the traffic was speeding, but there they seemed cut off from cars and river and the busy world.

‘Jimmy,' Evelyn said, ‘I don't want to hurt you, but I don't think I'll ever want to marry you. You know that really, don't you?'

‘You've suggested it before,' he conceded, and his smile didn't fade, ‘but until you're safely married off to your millionaire, I shall go on trying. The Joneses never give up.'

‘You know very well I'm not interested in how much money—' Evelyn began, but he squeezed her hand and laughed, making her break off.

‘Just my little joke,' he said, and finished his cup of tea. ‘Are you going for a stroll, or shopping?'

‘I must buy some white wool for my sister, and I ought to get a few oddments,' Evelyn said, and glanced at the small gilt watch on her rounded wrist; she had very clear skin, and all her movements were graceful. ‘What are you going to do?'

The laughter and the drollery seemed to fade from Jim's grey eyes.

‘I am going to get a haircut,' he declared.

Evelyn burst out laughing. A dozen people were attracted, and turned to stare at her; most of them gave a quick, light-hearted smile. She looked happy. She was happy. As she hurried towards Villiers Street and the Strand, with Jim at her side, more people stared at her.

They reached the end of Villiers Street, and she said: ‘See you in the office, Jim,' and hurried off. He also watched her. She was one of the lucky ones, he told himself deliberately. Face, figure, legs, ankles – and hair. He could never forget her hair, the most beautiful golden colour that hair could be, striking and remarkable, and when she let it down, it reached as far as her waist. In one hectic afternoon, not long ago, she had accepted a challenge from two fellows in the office, and had let it down; Jimmy Jones could remember to this moment how every smile vanished and everyone was silent, because of the beauty of that cascade of golden hair.

Goldilocks.

Of course, everyone called her that, and occasionally it riled her; today, two passing youths had made the comment, with a kind of Teddy Boy impudence which had sparked her to annoyance.

And led to another refusal.

James Matthison Jones watched Evelyn walking off at a good pace, and wondered what would happen to her. She had such dreams of romance – dreams at least as great as his. He hoped she wouldn't marry a man older than herself, she was the type likely to appeal to them; not exactly soft and clinging, but possessed of a great simplicity and a kind of intense honesty. In fact, he told himself that although there were times when he positively ached to have and to hold her, it would probably be a mistake to marry her, even if she was so inclined; and she would never be.

In her simplicity was a certain simpleness, a very different thing. He had known her at the office for nearly three years now, and knew her limitations, just as he believed that he knew his. They didn't really like the same things; hers was a television, his a book-and-armchair temperament. But for a few years it would be wonderful, and in time –

Forget it.

His usual barber was so busy that Jim did no more than put his head inside; three chairs and a dozen customers. The next was as busy, but nearer the Strand there was another shop, dignified by the word
Coiffure
which appeared on a hanging sign outside. Here was no barber but a hairdresser.
Ladies and Gentlemen's Hair Beauticians,
declared a notice in the window. He stood on tip-toe, to look over the frosted glass and into the mens' salon. Four chairs and, as far as he could see, only three men waiting; this was an expensive place, but he needed a trim, and the extra shilling wasn't the world. Two men were waiting, after all. One of the barbers glanced up and beamed at Jim, and said: ‘It will not be long, sir,' in a way which sounded like ‘Eet weel not be long, sair,' and went on snipping, then stood back and admired his handiwork on a head of greying hair as if looking for the slightest blemish in the cutting. The barbers worked as if their very lives depended on it, scissors snipped and clicked and gnashed, hair fell gently to the rubber-covered floor, a man in a corner bent over a basin and a short, plump barber began to give him a shampoo.

All was normal.

On the other side of the double-fronted shop, divided three-quarters of the depth of the shop by a wooden partition, was the ladies' salon. There were several cubicles, much whispering, much mystery, a kind of abracadabra of the coiffeur's craft. The several women, out of his sight, undoubtedly looked like space men.

Outside, people strolled or hurried. Inside, Jim closed his eyes, and hoped that it wouldn't be too long, then opened them again as the man next to him dropped a magazine on the table, and went to a newly vacated chair.

‘Only one more,' Jim mused, and picked up the magazine. It was small and printed on cheap paper, and the title read:

 

HAIR STYLIST

 

He turned over the pages and saw quarter-page pictures of women's hair, rather like some likely to be found in the glossy magazines, but nothing like so effective because these were printed in black and red and on newsprint. Beneath each was the descriptive style, beneath that in turn the hairdresser who had dressed the hair of the model whose picture was shown. ‘There isn't one a patch on Evelyn,' Jim mused, and ran the pages through quickly. He was about to drop the magazine when he saw the advertisement on the last page.

 

£1,000

in

PRIZES

 

this said boldly, and beneath it in smaller type but quite clearly:

 

Hair Styles Competition

for the Most Beautiful

Head of Hair

in Great Britain

Ladies' Section

Gentlemen's Section

Entry free

 

All particulars can be obtained

from any member of the

Hair Stylists' Association

 

‘You next, sir,' said the Italian with the white teeth and bright smile.

 

‘Oh, yes, thanks.' Jim jumped up. He took the magazine with him, sat down, submitted to the earlier rituals, and saw his own and the beaming Italian's reflection in a tall mirror. ‘This beautiful hair competition,' he said, ‘can you tell me more about it?'

‘Oh, yes, with pleasure, sair. You take a leaflet.' The barber stood back, surveyed Jim's silky, thinning hair and its large bald spot, and looked puzzled.

‘A friend of mine might be interested,' Jim said, solemnly.

‘Oh, yes, sair, I quite understand,' said the barber, ‘You take a leaflet. Everything is written down there.' He began to use the clippers with that kind of exaggerated care of a barber who knows that if he ill-treated his victim's hair, it might have serious results; no infant's hair was ever cut with greater care and gentleness. ‘The competition is open to everyone who had hair dressed by a member of the Hair Stylists' Association, sair. It is very simple.'

‘Ah,' thought Jim. ‘The snag. I wonder where Evelyn has hers done.'

He continued to think about it idly as he succumbed to the ministrations of the barber who certainly knew his business. He left, twelve minutes later, taking half a dozen of the printed leaflets about the competition in his pocket, and telling himself that he was probably a fool, and that Evelyn knew all about the competition. But if she knew nothing, and it attracted her, he couldn't imagine anyone else winning.

 

‘No, Jim,' said Evelyn. ‘I haven't heard of it.' She studied a leaflet with keen interest while she went on: ‘But it would be just a waste of time, I wouldn't stand a chance.'

‘No one would stand a chance against you,' Jim asserted, and turned to one of the older girls in the office. ‘Rose, what'd you think?'

‘It's as good as her money!'

‘No, really—' Evelyn began.

‘No mock modesty,' Jim ordered with affected sternness. ‘For the sake of the office you'll have to enter.'

‘Of course you will,' Rose said.

‘It would be crazy not to,' put in a typist who had been studying the leaflet over Evelyn's shoulder. ‘Here, Jackie, come and tell us what you think … Look, you don't have to have a perm, you just have to have a set at one of these hairdressers, and they say they've members all over London … The one near Villiers Street is the best for you, obviously … George! Come and let us know what you think …'

Jim strolled away from the crowd round Evelyn's desk, and went to his own, in a corner. He was Deputy Office Manager, Buying and Accounts Departments of Jepsons, Mail Order Suppliers to The World. It was a quarter past two, and he ought to have stopped the discussion and got everyone back to a machine, a file or an order book, but Jepsons believed that a policy of reasonable latitude with the staff was wise policy. In five minutes all of the staff of this office, thirty-two people in all, were busy. It was true that Evelyn had the leaflet on her desk, but she began to type out orders from rough notes he or the Buyer had made at a bewildering speed; in front of a typewriter, she became a part of the machine. So did several of the other girls. The clatter of machines, the rustle of papers, the occasional bang of a filing drawer, the ringing of a telephone, the footsteps of clerks with roving commissions, turned this into just another afternoon.

A little before half past five, work done and powder compacts, combs and lipsticks appearing like a rash all over the office, Evelyn came across to Jim. He would be working late, and his desk was still littered with papers; his task was to check orders against invoices, and pass the orders for payment.

‘I've made up my mind,' Evelyn said.

‘Which way?'

‘I'm going to enter.'

‘I want ten per cent commission!'

‘I haven't a chance, but
if
there happened to be a freak result—'

‘Get along, Goldilocks,' said Jim, and laughed at her; and she laughed in turn, then hurried away, for the bells which released the staff here and in the dozens of offices of the Jepson Building were ringing, and the staircases, landings, lifts and passages suddenly swarmed with people. Except for the occasional late worker, like Jim, the offices were occupied only by ghosts.

It was nearly half past six when Jim left, on a lovely evening. He could stroll along the Embankment, or through the gardens, or could go up Villiers Street towards the Strand as he usually did. He felt not only at a loose end, but deeply depressed. Evelyn's bluntness had acted like a blow from a bludgeon, and forced him to accept the fact that he had no hope. It had not really helped to tell himself that marriage with her wouldn't have worked, that their tastes differed, that her simplicity and sweetness would soon cloy. It was not much use, either, trying to persuade himself that he would soon get over it.

Meanwhile, he had the evening on his hands, for he had intended to ask Evelyn to have supper and go to a film with him. He was on his own too much. Comfortable digs, a landlady who spoiled him, a sufficient salary – enough to marry and raise a family on, if he were careful – but apart from that, he told himself his was an aimless kind of existence. He had never been a club man, preferring books and browsing, but at twenty-eight he felt a stronger and stronger urge for company, and until today he had persuaded himself that Evelyn's resistance could be worn down.

He did not think that now.

At least if she won that competition she would have reason to bless his name.

He smiled wryly, and found himself going towards the barbers. There were the hanging signs, the notices in the window and, standing at the corner nearby, the Italian barber. The man not only recognised but seemed positively pleased to see him.

‘Good evening, sir!'

‘Hallo,' said Jim, and smiled briefly. ‘Good night.'

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