Name On The Wrapper
by Margery Allingham
Mr Albert Campion was one of those useful if at times exasperating people who remain interested in the world in general at three o'clock on a chilly winter's morning. When he saw the overturned car, dark and unattended by the grass verge, therefore, he pulled up his own saloon and climbed out on to the road, whose frosty surface was glistening like a thousand diamonds.
His lean figure wrapped in a dark overcoat was rendered slightly top-heavy by the fact that he wore over it a small travelling-rug arranged as a cape. This sartorial anachronism was not of his own devising. His dinner hostess, old Mrs Laverock, was notorious both for her strong will and her fear of throat infections, and when Mr Campion had at last detached himself from her husband's brandy and reminiscences she had appeared at the top of the Jacobean staircase, swaddled in pink velvet, with the rug in her arms.
'Either that young man wears this round his throat or he does not leave this house.'
The edict went forth with more authority than ever her husband had been able to dispense from the bench, and Mr Campion had gone out into the night for a fifty-mile run back to Piccadilly wearing the rug, with his silk hat perched precariously above it.
Now, its folds, which reached his nose, prevented him from seeing that part of the ground which lay directly at his feet, so that he kicked the ring and sent it wheeling down the moonlit road before he saw it. The coloured flash in the pale light caught his attention and he went after it. It lay in his hand a few minutes later, as unattractive a piece of jewellery as ever he had been called upon to consider. It was a circle of different-coloured stones mounted on heavy gold, and was certainly unusual, if not particularly beautiful or valuable. He thrust it absently into his coat pocket before he resumed his investigation of the abandoned car.
He had just decided that the departed driver had been either drunk or certifiably insane in the moment of disaster when the swift crackle of bicycle wheels on the frost behind him made him swing round, and he found himself confronted by another caped figure who came to a wobbling and suspicious halt at his elbow.
'Now, now, there's no use you putting up a fight. I ain't alone, and if I were I'm more'n a match for you.'
The effect of these two thundering lies uttered in a pleasant country voice rendered unnaturally high by what was, no doubt, excusable nervousness, delighted Mr Campion, but unfortunately the folds of his hostess's rug hid his disarming smile and the country policeman stood gripping his bicycle as if it were a weapon.
'You're caught!' he said, his East Anglian accent bringing the final word out in a roar of triumph not altogether justified. 'Take off your mask.'
'My what?' Mr Campion's startled question was muffled by his drapery, and he pulled it down to let his chin out.
'That's right,' said the constable with a return of confidence, as his prisoner appeared so tractable. 'Now, what have you been a-doing of? Answer up. It'll be best for you.'
'My good man' - Mr Campion's tone was forgiving - 'you're making an ass of yourself, and I should hold that bicycle still if I were you or you'll get the back wheel between your legs and fall over it.'
'Now then, no names, no names, if you please, sir.' The Law was showing signs of disquiet again, but the bicycle was straightened hastily. 'You'll have to come down to see the Inspector.'
Mr Campion's astonishment began to grow visible and convincing, for, after all, the country bobby is not as a rule a night bird of prey.
'Look here,' he said patiently, 'this pathetic-looking mess here isn't my car.'
'No, I know that's not.' The triumphant note crept into the constable's voice again. 'I seen the number as soon as I come up.'
'Since you've observed so much,' continued Mr Campion politely, 'would it be tasteless to inquire if you've noticed that?'
He swung round as he spoke and pointed to his own car, standing like a silver ghost a few yards down the road.
'Eh?' The Law was evidently taken by surprise. 'Oh, you ran into him, did you? Where is he?'
Campion sighed and embarked on the slow process of convincing his captor that the car ahead belonged to him, his licences were in order, and that he was properly and expensively insured. He also gave his own name and address, Colonel Laverock's name and address, and the time at which he had left the house. By way of full measure he also delivered a short lecture on 'Cars and How to Overturn Them', with special reference to the one on the verge, and was finally conducted to his own vehicle and grudgingly permitted to depart.
'I don't really know as how you oughtn't to have come along to find the Inspector,' said the constable finally as he leaned on the low near-side door. 'You didn't ought to have been masked. I'll have to report it. That rug might have been to protect your throat, but then that might not.'
'That cape of yours may be buttoned up against the cold or it may be worn simply to disguise the fact that your tunic is loosened at the throat,' retorted Mr Campion, and, letting in the clutch, he drove away, leaving a startled countryman with the conviction that he had actually encountered a man with X-ray eyes at last.
On the by-pass Mr Campion ran into a police cordon, and once again was subjected to a searching inquiry concerning his licences. Having been, in his opinion, held up quite long enough while the police fooled about looking for stolen cars, he said nothing about the overturned one, but drove peacefully home to his flat in Bottle Street and went to bed. His ridiculous encounter with the excitable constable had driven all recollection of the ring from his head and he thought no more about it until it appeared on his breakfast table the following morning.
His man had discovered it in the coat pocket, and, deducing the conventional worst, had set it out with an air of commiseration not altogether tactful; anxious, no doubt, that his employer should remember first thing in the morning any lady who might have refused him on the night before.
Campion put aside The Times with regret and took up the ring. By morning light it was even less beautiful than it had appeared under the moon. It was a woman's size and was heavy in the baroque fashion that has returned after fifty or sixty years. Some of the stones, which ran all the way round the hoop, were very good and some were not; and as he sat looking at it his eyebrows rose. He was still admiring it as a curio rather than a work of art when his old friend Superintendent Stanislaus Oates rang up from Scotland Yard. He sounded heavily amused.
'So you've been running round the country in disguise, have you?' he said cheerfully. 'Like to come in for a chat this morning?'
'Not particularly. What for?'
'I want an explanation for a telephoned report which has come in this morning. We've been called in by the Colnewych police on a very interesting little case. I'm going over the stuff now. I'll expect you in half an hour.'
'All right.' Mr Campion did not sound enthusiastic. 'Shall I wear my mask?'
'Come with your head in a bag, if you like,' invited the Superintendent vulgarly. 'Keep your throat wrapped up. There's nothing like an old sock, they say. Place the toe upon the windpipe and . . .'
Mr Campion rang off.
Half an hour later, however, he presented himself at the Superintendent's office and sat, affable and exquisite, in the visitor's chair. Oates dismissed his secretary and leaned over the desk. His grey face, which was usually so lugubrious, had brightened considerably as Campion appeared and now he had some difficulty in hiding a grin of satisfaction.
'Driving round the country with a topper over your eyes and a blanket round your neck at three o'clock in the morning,' he said. 'You must have been lit. Still, I won't go into that. I'll be magnanimous. What do you know about this business?'
'I'm innocent,' announced his visitor flatly. 'Whatever it is, I haven't done it. I went out to dinner with a wealthy and childless godparent. I mention this in case your mercenary soul may not be able to believe that any sober man will motor fifty miles into the wilds of East Anglia for a meal. When I left, my godparent's wife, who once had tonsillitis as a child and has never forgotten it, lent me a small rug. (It is sixty inches by sixty inches and is of a rather lurid tartan which I am not entitled to wear.) As she will tell you, if you ask her, she safety-pinned this firmly to the back of my neck. On my way home I passed a very interestingly overturned car, and while I was looking at it a large red-faced ape dressed up as a policeman attempted to arrest me. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.'
'Then you don't know anything about the crime?' The Superintendent was disappointed but unabashed. 'I'll tell you. You never know, you might be useful.'
'It has happened,' murmured Mr Campion.
'It's a case of robbery,' went on Oates, ignoring the interruption. 'A real big haul. The assessors are on to it now, but, roughly speaking, it's in the neighbourhood of twenty thousand pounds' worth of jewellery and little boxes.'
'Snuff-boxes and patch-boxes, enamel things covered with diamonds and what-not.' Oates sounded contemptuous and Campion laughed.
'People of ostentatious tastes?' he ventured.
'No, it's a collection of antiques,' said Oates seriously, and looked up to find Campion grinning. 'You're a bit lah-di-blinking-dah today, aren't you?' he protested. 'What is it? The effects of your night on the tiles? Look here, you pay attention, my lad. You were found nosing round the wreckage of a car thought to have been driven by the thief or thieves, and the very least you can do is to try and make yourself useful. Last night there was a bit of a do at St Brede's Priory, about five miles away from your godpapa's place. It was a largish show, and the place, which seems to be about as big as the British Museum and rather like it, was full to bursting.'
Campion stared at him.
'You're talking about the Hunt Ball at old Allenbrough's private house, I take it?' he put in mildly.
'Then you do know about it?'
'I don't know about the robbery. I know about the Ball. It's an annual affair. Old Porky Allenbrough's ball is almost an institution, like the Lord Mayor's Show - it's very like that in general effect, too, now I come to think of it. I used to attend regularly when I was young.'
'Well, anyway, there seem to have been close on five hundred people gathered together there,' he said. 'They were all over the house and grounds, cars going and coming all the time. A real party, the local Super says it was. All we know is that about two o'clock, just when the crowd was thinning a bit, her ladyship goes up to her room and finds her jewellery gone and her famous collection of antiques pinched out of the glass-fronted cupboard in the boudoir next door to her bedroom.
'All the servants were downstairs watching the fun, of course, and hadn't seen a thing. The local police decided it must have been a professional job and they flung a cordon round the whole district. They figured that a crook had taken advantage of the general excitement to burgle the place in the ordinary way. They were very smart on the job, but they didn't lay hands on a single "pro". In fact, the only suspicious character who showed up during the whole of the evening was a lad in a top hat with a plaid blanket - '
'What about that overturned car?' interrupted his visitor.
'I'm coming to that,' said Oates severely. 'Wait a minute. That car belonged to a very respectable couple who went to the dance and stayed at it. They were just going to leave when the alarm was given and it was then they discovered the car had been stolen. The gardeners who were acting as car-park attendants didn't remember it going, but then, as they said, cars were moving in and out all the evening. People would drive 'em off a little way to sit out in. It was a real old muddle by the sound of it. The Super told me on the 'phone that in his opinion every manservant on the place was as tight as a lord the whole evening.'
'And every lord as tight as a drum, no doubt,' added Mr Campion cheerfully. 'Very likely. It sounds like the good old days before the Conferences. I see. Well, the suggestion is that the car was pinched by the burglar, who used it to escape in. What did he arrive in? A howdah?'
Oates sat back and scratched his chin.
'Yes,' he said. 'That's the trouble. The police are in a bit of a difficulty. You see, her ladyship is howling for the return of her valuables, but neither she nor her husband will admit for an instant that one of their guests might be the culprit. That was the awkward thing at the time. A watch was kept on those guests who left after the discovery of the theft, but no one was searched, of course.'
Mr Campion was silent for a moment.
'These shows are done in parties,' he remarked at last. 'People take a party to a ball like that. Porky and his missis would invite a hundred friends or so and ask them each to bring a party. It's a private affair, you see, not an ordinary Hunt Ball. Allenbrough calls it the Whippersfield Hunt Ball because he likes to see a pink coat or two about. He's M.F.H. and can do what he likes, and it's a wealthy hunt, anyway. Yes, I see the trouble. I don't envy the local Super if he has to go round to all old Allenbrough's pals and say: "Excuse me, but did you include a professional jewel-thief in the party you took to the ball at St Brede's on the twenty-third last?" '
'I know. That's what it amounts to.' Oates was gloomy. 'Got any ideas? You're our Society expert.'
'Am I? Well, in that capacity let me advise you that such a course would provoke endless correspondence both to the Chief Constable and the heavier daily Press. You're sure this was a professional job?'
'Yes. The jewellery was in a wall-safe which had been very neatly cracked and the show cupboard had been opened by an expert. Also there were no finger-prints.'
'No trade-marks, either, I expect?'
'No, it was a simple job for a "pro". It didn't call for anything sensational. It was simply far too neat for an amateur, that's all. We're rounding up all the likelies, of course, but with such a field to choose from the right man may easily slip the stuff before we can get round to him.'
Mr Campion rose.
'You have all my sympathy. It's not what you yourself would call a picnic, is it? Still, I'll ferret round a bit and let you have any great thoughts that may come to me. By the way, what do you think of that?'
He crossed the room and he spoke and laid the many-stoned ring on the desk.
'Not very much,' said Oates, turning it over with a dubious forefinger. 'Where did you get it?'
'I picked it up in the street,' said Mr Campion truthfully. 'I ought to take it to a police station, but I don't think I will. I'd rather like to give it back to the owner myself.'
'Do what you like with it, my lad.' Oates was mildly exasperated. 'Keep your mind on the important jewellery, because now Scotland Yard has taken over the case it means the Metropolitan area pays for the inquiry; don't forget that.'
Campion was still looking at the ring.
'Anyway, I showed it to you,' he said, and wandered towards the door.
'Don't waste your time over trifles,' Oates called after him. 'You can have that ring. If anybody asks you, say I said you could.'
It would have appeared that Mr Campion took the Superintendent's final offer seriously, for he replaced the trinket carefully in his waistcoat pocket before turning into the nearest telephone booth, where he rang up that unfailing source of Society gossip, old Lady Laradine. After listening to her for a full two minutes, while she asked after every relative he had in the world, he put the question he had in mind.
'Who is Gina Gray? I've heard the name, but I can't place her. Gray. Gray with an A.'
'My dear boy! So pretty! Just the girl for you. Oh no, perhaps not. I've just remembered she's engaged. Announced last month. Still, she's very charming.' The old voice, which was strong enough to penetrate any first-night babel in London, rattled on, and Campion felt for another twopence.
'I know,' he shouted. 'I know she's lovely, or at least I guessed she was. But who, who is she? Also, of course, where?'
'What? Oh, where is she? With her aunt, of course. She's spending the winter there. She's so young, Albert. Straight down from the shires. The father owns a row of Welsh mountains or something equally romantic.'
'Who?' bellowed Mr Campion through the din. 'Who, my good gramophone, is the aunt?'
'What did you call me, Albert?' The famous voice was dangerously soft.
'Gramophone,' said Mr Campion, who was a great believer in the truth when the worst had come to the worst.
'Oh, I thought you said . . . never mind.' Lady Laradine, who had several grandchildren and regarded each new arrival as a personal insult, was mollified. 'I do talk very fast, I know, especially on the 'phone. It's my exuberant spirit. You want to know who the aunt is. Why, Dora Carrington. You know her.'
'I do,' said Campion with relief. 'I didn't realize she had a niece.'
'Oh, but she has; just out of the nest. Presented last year. A sweetly pretty child. Such a pity she's engaged. Tell me, have you any information about Wivenhoe's son? No? Then what about the Pritchards?'
She went on and on with the relentless energy of the very bored, and it was not until Mr Campion ran out of coppers that the monologue came to an end.
It was late in the morning, therefore, when Mr Campion presented himself at the charming Lowndes Square house which Dora Carrington had made her London home.
Miss Gina Gray only decided to see him after a considerable pause, during which, he felt, old Pollard, the butler, must have worked hard vouching for his desirability.
She came into the lounge at last, looking much as he had thought she might, very young and startled, with frank, miserable eyes, but dark, curling hair instead of the sleek blonde he had somehow expected.
He introduced himself apologetically.
'It's rather odd turning up like this out of the blue,' he said, 'but you'll have to forgive me. Perhaps you could think of me as a sort of long-lost elderly relative. I might have been your uncle, of course, if Dora had taken it into her head to marry me instead of Tubby, not that the idea ever occurred to either of us at the time, of course. Don't get that into your head. I only say it might have happened so that you'll see the sort of reliable bird I am.'
He paused. The alarm had died out of her eyes and she even looked wanly amused. He was relieved. Idiotic conversation, although invaluable, was not a luxury which he often permitted himself now that the thirty-five-year-old landmark was passed.
'It's very nice of you to come,' she said in a polite, small voice. 'What can I do?'
'Nothing. I came to return something I think you've lost, that's all.' He fished in his pocket and drew out the ring. 'That's yours, isn't it?' he said gently.
He had expected some reaction, but not that it would be so violent. She stood trembling before him, every tinge of colour draining out of her face.
'Where did you get it?' she whispered, and then, pulling herself together with a desperate courage which he rather admired, she shook her head. 'It's not mine. I've never seen it before. I don't know who you are either, and I - I don't want to. Please go away.'
'Oh, Gina Gray!' said Mr Campion. 'Gina Gray, don't be silly. I'm the original old gentleman with the kind heart. Don't deny the irrefutable.'
'It's not mine.' To his horror he saw tears in her eyes. 'It's not mine. It's not. It's not. Go away.'
She turned and made for the door, her slender, brown-suited figure looking very small and fugitive as she ran.
Mr Campion was still debating his next move when Dora came in, a vision of fox-furs and smiles.
'My dear!' she said. 'You haven't been to see us for years and years and now you turn up when I'm due out to lunch in fifteen minutes. Where have you been?'
'About,' said Mr Campion truthfully, reflecting that it was all wrong that the people one never had time to visit were always one's oldest and closest friends.
They drank a cocktail together and were still reminiscing happily when Dora's luncheon escort arrived. In the end Mr Campion showed his hostess out of her own house and was standing rather forlornly on the pavement, waving after her departing car, when he observed a familiar figure stumping dejectedly down the steps which he had so recently descended himself.
'Jonathan!' he said. 'What are you doing here?'
Mr Jonathan Peters started violently, as if he had been caught sleep-walking, and looked up with only a faint smile on his gloomy young face.
'Hallo, Campion,' he said. 'I didn't see you. I've been kicking my heels in the breakfast-room. Hell! let's go and have a drink.'
In the end, after some half-hearted bickering, they went along to that home from home, the Junior Greys, and Mr Campion, who, in company with the rest of the world, considered himself to be the best listener on earth, persuaded his young acquaintance to unburden himself.
Jonathan was a younger brother of the two Peters who had been Campion's Cambridge companions, and in the ordinary way the ten years' difference in their ages would have raised an insurmountable barrier between them; but at the moment Jonathan was a man with a sorrow.
'It's Gina,' he said 'We're engaged, you know.'
'Really?' Mr Campion was interested. 'What's the row?'
'Oh, I suppose it'll be all right in the end.' The young man sounded wistful and only partially convinced. 'I mean, I think she'll come round. Anyway, I hope so. What annoys me is that I'm the one with the grievance, and yet here I am dithering around as though it were all my fault.' He frowned and shook his head over the unreasonableness of life in general and love in particular.
'You were at Porky Allenbrough's show last night, I suppose?' Mr Campion put the question innocently and was rewarded.
'Yes, we both were. I didn't see you there. There was a tremendous crush and it might have been a really good bust if it hadn't been for one thing and another. I've got a genuine grouch, you know.' Mr Peters' young face was very earnest, and under the influence of half a pint of excellent Chablis he came out with the full story.
As far as Mr Campion could make out from his somewhat disjointed account the history was a simple one. Miss Gina Gray, while enjoying the London season, had yet not wished to give up all strenuous physical exercise and so had formed the habit of hunting with the Whippersfield five or six times a month. On these occasions she had been entertained by a relation of Dora Carrington's husband who lived in the district and had very kindly stabled her horses for her. Her custom had been to run down by car early in the morning, returning to London either at night or on the following day.
In view of all this hospitality, it had been arranged that she should go to the Priory Ball with her host and his party, while Jonathan should attend with another group of people from a different house. The arrangement between the couple had been, therefore, that, while Gina should arrive at the ball with her own crowd, Jonathan should have the privilege of driving her back before rejoining his own host and hostess.
'It was a bit thick,' he concluded resentfully. 'Gina turned up with a crowd of people I didn't know, including a lad whom nobody seemed to have seen before. She danced with him most of the evening and finally he drove her home himself. He left me a message to say so, the little toot. I felt fed up and I imagine I may have got pretty tight, but anyway, when I arrived at the town house this morning ready to forgive and forget like a hero, she wouldn't even see me.'
'Infuriating,' agreed Mr Campion, his eyes thoughtful. 'Did you find out who this interloping tick happened to be?'
Jonathan shrugged his shoulders.
'I did hear his name . . . Robertson, or something. Apparently he's been hunting fairly regularly this season and he came along with Gina's lot. That's all I know.'
'What did he look like?'
Jonathan screwed up his eyes in an effort of recollection.
'An ugly blighter,' he said at last. 'Ordinary height, I think. I don't remember much about him except that I disliked his face.'
It was not a very helpful description, but Mr Campion sat pondering over it for some time after the despondent Jonathan had wandered off to keep an afternoon appointment.
Suddenly he sat up, a new expression on his lean, good-humoured face.
'Rocks,' he said under his breath. 'Rocks Denver . . .' and he made for the nearest telephone.
It was nine o'clock that evening when Superintendent Oates came striding into his office and, flinging his hat upon the desk, turned to survey the elegant, dinner-jacketed visitor who had been patiently awaiting his arrival for the best part of half an hour.
'Got him,' he said briefly. 'The lads shadowed him to Peachy Dale's club in Rosebery Avenue, and then, of course, we knew we were safe. Peachy may be a rotten fence, but he's the only man in London who would have handled those snuff-boxes, now I come to think of it. It was a lovely little cop. We gave him time to get settled and then closed in on all five entrances. There he was with the stuff in a satchel. It was beautiful. I've never seen a man so astounded in my life.'
He paused and a reminiscent smile floated over his sad face.
'A little work of art, that's what that arrest was, a little work of art.'
'That's fine, then,' said his visitor, rising. 'I think I'll drift.'
'No you don't, my lad.' The Superintendent was firm. 'You don't do conjuring tricks under my nose without an explanation. You come across.'
Mr Campion sighed.
'My dear good Enthusiast, what more can you possibly want?' he protested. 'You've got the man and you've got the swag. That's enough for a conviction - and Porky's blessing.'
'Very likely, but what about my dignity?' Oates was severe. 'It may be enough for the Bench, but it's not enough for me. Who do you think you are, the Home Office?'
'Heaven forbid,' said Mr Campion piously. 'I thought you might express your ingratitude in this revolting way. Look here, if I explain, my witness doesn't go into Court. Is that a bet?'
The Superintendent held out his hand.
'May I be struck pink,' he said sincerely. 'I mean it.'
Since he knew from experience that this was an oath that Oates held peculiarly sacred, Mr Campion relented.
'Give me twenty minutes,' he said. 'I'll go and fetch her.'
Oates groaned. 'Another woman!' he exploded. 'You find 'em, don't you? All right, I'll wait.'
Miss Gina Gray looked so genuinely pathetic as she came into the office clinging to Mr Campion's arm a little over half an hour later that Oates, who had an unexpected weakness for youth and beauty, was inclined to be mollified. Campion observed the first signs of his heavily avuncular mood with relief.
'It's perfectly all right,' he said to the girl at his side. 'I've given you my word you'll be kept clean out of it. This solemn-looking person will be struck a fine hunting pink if he attempts to make me break it. That's written in the unchanging stars. Isn't that so, Superintendent?'
Oates regarded him with fishy eyes.
'You go and put on your mask,' he said. 'Now, what is all this? What's been going on?'
Gina Gray required a little gentle pumping, but beneath Campion's expert treatment she began to relax, and within ten minutes she was pouring out her story with all the energy of injured innocence behind it.
'I met the man I knew as Tony Roberts - you say his real name is Rocks Denver - in the hunting-field,' she said. 'He always seemed to be out when I was, and he talked to me as people do out hunting. I didn't know him, he wasn't a friend, but I got used to him being about. He rode very well and he helped me out of a mess once or twice. You know that sort of acquaintance, don't you?'
Oates nodded and shook his head. He was smiling.
'We do,' he said. 'And then what?'
'Then nothing,' declared Miss Gray innocently. 'Nothing at all until last night. We were all getting ready to go to the Priory in three or four cars when he 'phoned me at Major Carrington's, where I was staying, and said his car had broken down in the village and he'd got to leave it and would it be awful cheek of him to ask if one of us would give him a lift to the hall. I said of course, naturally, and when we met him trudging along, rather disconsolate in full kit, we stopped and picked him up.'
Oates glanced at Campion triumphantly.
'So that's how he got in?' he said. 'Neat, eh? I see, Miss Gray. And then when you got your acquaintance to the party you didn't like to leave him cold. Is that how it was?'
The girl blushed and her dark eyes were very frank.
'Well, he was rather out of everything and he did dance very well,' she admitted apologetically. 'He hadn't talked much about himself, and it was only then I realized he didn't live near and didn't know everybody else. His - his manners were all right.'
Oates laughed. 'Oh yes, Rocky's very presentable,' he agreed. 'He's one of the lads who let his old school down, I'm afraid. Well, and then what?'
She hesitated and turned to Campion.
'I've been so incredibly silly,' she murmured. It was a direct appeal, and the Superintendent was not unchivalrous.
'There's nothing new in that, Miss,' he observed kindly. 'We all make errors of judgment at times. You missed him for a bit, I suppose?'
'Yes, I danced with several people and I'd half forgotten him when he turned up at my elbow with a raincoat over his arm. He took me out on the terrace and put it over my shoulders and said - oh, a lot of silly things about being there alone without a soul to speak to. He said he'd found one man he knew, but that he was wrapped up with some woman or other, and suggested that we borrowed this friend's car and went for a run round. It was getting rather late and I was livid with Jonathan anyway, so I said all right.'
'Why were you livid with Jonathan?' Campion put the question curiously and Miss Gray met his eyes.
'He got jealous as soon as we arrived and drowned his sorrows rather too soon.'
'I see.' Campion smiled as he began to understand Mr Peters' astonishing magnanimity, which had hitherto seemed somewhat too saintly to be strictly in character.
'Well then . . .' Oates went back to the main story, '. . . off you went in the car. You drove around for quite a while.'
Gina took a deep breath.
'Yes,' she said steadily. 'We drove around for a bit, but not very far. The car wasn't his, you see, and he had trouble with it. It started all right, but it conked out down the lane and he was fooling about with it for a long time. He got so frightfully angry that I began to feel - well, rather uncomfortable. Also I was cold. He had taken the raincoat off my shoulders and flung it in the back seat, and I remembered that it was heavy and warm, so I turned to get it. Just then he closed the bonnet and came back. He snatched the coat and swore at me, and I began to get thoroughly frightened. I tried to persuade him to take me back, but he just drove on down the lane towards the main road. It was then that we passed the three policemen on motor-cycles racing towards the Priory. That seemed to unnerve him completely and he turned off towards Major Carrington's house, with the car limping and misfiring all the time. I didn't know what to do. I was far too frightened to make a row, you see, because I was a guest at the Major's, and - well, there was Jonathan and Aunt Dora to consider and - oh, you do understand, don't you?'
'I think so,' said Campion gravely. 'When did you take off your ring?'
She gaped at him.
'Why, at that moment,' she said. 'How did you know? It's a stupid trick I have when I'm nervous. It was rather loose, and I pulled it off and started to play with it. He looked down and saw me with it and seemed to lose his head. He snatched it out of my hand and demanded to know where I'd got it, and then, when he saw it clearly by the dashboard light, he suddenly pitched it out of the window in disgust. It was so utterly unexpected that I forgot where I was and made a leap for it across him. Then - then I'm afraid the car turned over.'
'Well, well,' said Oates inadequately. 'And so there you were, so to speak.'
She nodded gravely. 'I was so frightened,' she said. 'Fortunately we were quite near the house, but my dress was spoilt and I was shaken and bruised, and I just set off across the fields and let myself in by the stable gate. He came after me, and we had a dreadful sort of row in whispers, out in the drive. He wanted me to put him up for the night, and didn't seem to realize that I was a visitor and couldn't dream of doing such a thing. In the end I showed him where the saddle-room was, off the stable yard. There was a stove there and some rugs and things. Then I sneaked up to my own room and went to bed. This morning I pretended that I'd had a headache and got somebody to give me a lift home. He'd gone by then, of course.'
'Of course he had. Hopped on one of those country 'buses before the servants stirred,' Oates put in with satisfaction. 'He relied on you to hold your tongue for your own sake.'
'There wasn't much else he could do in the circumstances,' observed Campion mildly. 'Once he had the howling misfortune to pick a sick car all his original plans went to pieces. He used Miss Gray to get the stuff safely out of the house in the usual false pocket of the raincoat. Then his idea must have been to drive her a mile or two down the road and strand her, while he toddled off to Town alone. The breakdown delayed him and, once he saw the police were about, he knew the cordon would go round and that he was trapped, so he had to think out other tactics. That exercise seems to have unnerved him entirely. I can understand him wanting to get into the house. After all, it'd be a first-class hiding-place in the circumstances. Yes, well, that's fairly clear now, I hope, Superintendent. Here's your ring, Miss Gray.'
As Gina put out her hand for the trinket her eyes grew puzzled.
'You're a very frightening person,' she said. 'How on earth did you know it was mine?'
'Quite.' Oates was frankly suspicious. 'If you've never met this young lady before, I don't see how you guessed it belonged to her.'
Campion stood regarding the girl with genuine surprise.
'My dear child,' he said, 'surely you know yourself? Who had this ring made for you?'
'No one. It was left to me. My father's sister died about six months ago and told me in a letter always to wear it for luck. It doesn't seem to have brought me much.'
For a moment Campion seemed completely bewildered. After a while, however, he laughed.
'Your father's sister? Were you named after her?'
'Yes, I was.' Miss Gray's dark eyes were widening visibly. 'How do you know all this? You're frightening.'
Campion took the ring between his thumb and forefinger and turned it slowly round, while the stones winked and glittered in the hard electric light.
'It's such a simple trick I hardly like to explain and spoil the effect,' he said. 'About fifty years ago it was a fairly common conceit to give young ladies rings like this. You see, I knew this was Gina Gray's ring because it had her name on the wrapper, as it were. Look, start at the little gold star and what have you? Garnet, Indicolite - that's an indigo variety of tourmaline, Superintendent - Nephrite, Amethyst, then another smaller gold star and Garnet again, Rose Quartz, Agate and finally Yellow Sapphire. There you are. I thought you must know. G.I.N.A. G.R.A.Y., all done according to the best sentimental jewellery tradition. As soon as I came to consider the ring in cold blood it was obvious. Look at it, Oates. What man in his senses would put that collection of stones together if he didn't mean something by them?'
The Superintendent did not answer immediately. He sat turning the ring round and round with an expression of grudging astonishment on his grey face. When at last he did look up he expressed himself unexpectedly.
'Fancy that,' he said. 'Dear me.'
When Miss Gray had departed in a taxicab, which, on Mr Campion's suggestion, a patient and sober Jonathan had kept ticking up outside on the Embankment during the whole of the short interview, he was more explicit.
'She had her name on it,' he said after a moment or two of purely decorative imagery. 'She had her dear little name on it! Very smart of you, Mr Campion. Don't let it go to your head. I don't know if I'm quite satisfied yet. Who put you on to Rocky? Why Rocky? Why not any other of the fifty first-class jewel thieves in London?'
Campion grinned. It was not often that the Superintendent condescended to ask straight questions and he felt justifiably gratified by the phenomenon.
'You said he was a "pro",' he explained. 'That was the first step. Then young Jonathan Peters told me Gina had met the fellow hunting regularly, and so, putting two and two together, I arrived at Rocky. Rocky is an anachronism in the underworld; he can ride. How many jewel thieves do you know who can ride well enough to turn up at a hunt, pay their caps, and not make an exhibition of themselves? Hunting over strange country isn't trotting round the Row, you know.'
Oates shook his head sadly.
'You depress me,' he said. 'First you think of the obvious and then you go and say it, and then you're proved right. It's very irritating. The ring was a new one on me, though. D'you know, I wouldn't mind giving my wife one of those. It's a pretty idea. She'd like it. Besides,' he added seriously, 'it might come in useful some time. You never know.'
In the end Campion sat down and worked it out for him.
End of Name On The Wrapper by Margery Allingham