Philip hated his job. What in the world had he landed himself into? Had he listened to his father he could have been a painter in Paris. Ah, Paris...the beautiful people, the cafes and the Eiffel Tower!
But no, he had given into the whims of his mother and was turned into a public servant. Though a powerful one at that.
He was Philip Sheffield, Sergeant of Police, and London City. Twenty years and his job bore him no respite. It was like he was at the beck and call of the people, the commoners, the elite and the aristocrats alike. He had no life really. He had been in love once but the lack of time for a decent courtship had her running for the butcher's son. All this while, his mother told him she was not worth him and his father had just grinned back.
But he was a good policeman. Had solved numerous cases. He had received accolades and awards for his work. Well, at least this he could brag about. A man with a balding head and a growing paunch did not have much more. He had solved murders, arsons, and robberies. He was an honest and brilliant man at that. The recent case though had muddled his mind.
Lady Victoria was a social butterfly, known for her lovely candlelight suppers and Christmas balls. And to deny a Lady of such stature would be foolishness. But he was tired. He wanted to sleep in but a phone call from her had sent the Sandman packing. He bolted from his house, barely managing to button his pants. Apparently, the lady had been screaming murder! A robbery...no! What? He had not heard her, had he? Whoever could? She was yelling incoherently into the telephone. Something about her Antoine. Who Antoine? No clue. Perhaps, he would get there and find out what was troubling the old fool.
The door to the mansion was ajar. As he entered, he realized that a murder had been committed! But one look at Lady Victoria confirmed much more! All her precious jewels stolen? Or the silver candlesticks she bragged about all the time? No, the old hag was crying too much and the disheveled makeup was horrifying!
"Antoine...my poor Antoine!" wailed Lady Victoria. She looked as if she had a bout of sniffles and the tears pouring were genuine. A rare thing to see thought, Philip.
"They took him away…away from me!" she continued to sob.
"Calm down My Lady, I am here at your service!" quipped Philip to shut her up.
After what seemed like an eternity, she finally calmed down. Antoine was missing. His window was broken by the kidnappers. The room was a mess. There were pieces of broken glass, spilled food and torn bed sheets. There were spots of blood too. The Butler suggested that Antoine could have been murdered but this only gained him a steely glare from the Lady.
Now Philip was all muddled in the head. This Antoine had quite a reputation it seemed. He was blue-blooded of course. Had expensive tastes and had a string of servants at his beck and call. Now, this wasn't surprising, he was, of course, related to the Lady. Although, she never much mentioned how they were related and he did not have the nerve to ask now. While she continued to sob, Philip conducted his questioning of all staff members of the house. Thirty... yes 30 servants were employed for just three people. The Lady, the Lord, and Antoine. Such is life!
What could have been the reason? A feud at the local bar? No, the Lady had dismissed such thoughts. Antoine was a gentleman! It was scandalous for him to be seen at a silly water hole. So that was out. What were the clues? He was fair, had brown eyes and a lovely head of thick hair. Women loved him or so claimed the Lady!
Perhaps, some female lover had him kidnapped? He would have to find out. Or some silly brawl over the female species at the bar would have ensured something like this! Young boys these days! Phew! The night was growing longer than he expected. He gave a damn about this silly Antoine! Duty was duty though...
He had questioned everyone from the butler to the watchman to the cellar keeper. All maids and house-helps were questioned too. The poor souls were tired and wanted to go to bed. Finally, he had to speak to this maid, Carla.
Carla, the beautiful red head. Philip was lost in her green eyes and she was not oblivious to this! She coyly smiled and whispered that she had heard some scrapping sounds before midnight! Now that was a break through, thought Philip.
She had heard the creaking of the room window where Antoine slept. She was his personal maid and lived on the same floor in the corner room. They chatted for half an hour and Philip wished she would go on and on...
He found out that in many ways, the staff was relieved. Master Antoine was the messiest person alive. He kicked up a lot of work for them daily. And the lady could see nothing beyond that fellow! Lord Miles, was upset too, more so because the Lady hadn't stopped sobbing. However she was, he loved her dearly.
The following morning, Philip went about inquiring but every time he mentioned Antoine, people seemed to be relieved and happy. He was puzzled. How could people become so cynical? He had met at least ten people and they all had the same reactions. Old Mrs. Gringles was more than happy when she heard about the misfortune. She would have jumped if she could. She mentioned something about her Lacey being saved from that brute.
He was tired. He wanted to sleep and was about to drift in, when his assistant announced that Carla was here to see him. Suddenly he was rejuvenated.
Carla had the same coy smile. “I think I know where they have taken Master Antoine!" she exclaimed! "Where? How did you know?” asked Philip.
"I was cleaning his room and found this...a torn ticket! It says one way to Paris!"
"Good heavens, they have taken him all the way to Paris? Whatever for?"
"We must go for him, Sergeant Philip! We must!" cried the lovely Carla. "We? Are you sure? Why do you want to risk your life my dear?" asked Philip. "I want to...maybe I want to help you, “she smiled.
And that smile had a naughty hint in it...
[To be continued]