Sleight Of Hand – Episode 14

CONSTABLE BRINKS was unable to find a mention of Waythorne Manor near Bakewell, Derbyshire. He found a Waythorne Park in Wiltshire, but this was not the same place mentioned on the reference Dr Nicholls had finally found.

“There was a Mr Smith,” Brinks said proudly, “of a Russell and Blythe, Bespoke Tailors of Exeter, but in his letter to the station Mr Smith said that they had never had cause, sir, to call upon the services of watchmen.”

“Thank you, Brinks,” Sergeant Greene said. “Good work. When Doctor Nicholls finds the third reference, you may as well follow that up, too. Miss Rutherford and I will be absent from the station for an hour, Constable. We will be at the library.”

In the Duke Humfrey’s, Terence put a hand on Ruth’s arm to prevent her from proceeding straight to the doctor’s office.

“Look about you, Ruth,” he said.

Ruth frowned, but did as she was asked. Students and dons worked as usual, ancient volumes laid out before them.

“No, I mean really look. Look as a policeman looks.”

Ruth looked.

“Um. Well, it is less jumbled, I suppose.” She pointed down the centre of the great, vaulted room. “There the desks are in neat rows. Doctor Nicholls says this reduces the hidden corners where a vandal might hide. But there is more floor space. It is, I suppose, more airy.” She looked up at Terence. “What am I looking for?”

He was scanning the library.

“I need an inventory from Doctor Nicholls,” he said. “Let’s go.”

The librarian was pleased to be able to find them a full inventory of the library’s fittings.

“I am a librarian to my very boots,” he said, chuckling. “When I came here in Sixty-seven I found the catalogue of books and other documents in frustratingly good order nothing to do! So I had the assistant list and classify the carpets, the paintings and the tables and so on. Sadly, the pretty watercolours on the west wall are not priceless masterpieces, as I secretly hoped. They are the daubings of a Dean of Magdalen in the early century who should have stuck to mathematics!”

Sergeant Greene was scanning the inventory, ignoring Dr Nicholls.

“Can I take this with me?” he asked.

“Oh, yes, of course. I have a fully cross-referenced version in that cabinet over there. That’s just an alphabetical list.”


Terence was like a man possessed. He did not share his ideas with Ruth as he put her in a cab to south Oxford. He demanded that the driver take them with all haste to an address at Iffley. He did not, she observed with some regret, even try to kiss her!

Less than an hour later they entered a dimly lit shop that contained what Ruth guessed were antiquities. There were bureaus decorated with exquisite marquetry, and footstools that she guessed had once been graced with the feet of Tudor lords.

“I know the owner,” Terence said, leading Ruth through the treasures to a back room. An affable man of about forty was there.

“Greene!” he said. “Good to see you.” He looked at Ruth. “Have you had the very good fortune to marry since our paths last crossed?”

Ruth went bright red, but Terence merely said, “No, Harris,” and thrust the inventory under his friend’s nose.

Mr Harris looked down the list.

“I don’t know why you want to show me this, Greene,” he said. “There’s nothing on here that I’d take off your hands. Ordinary desks less than seventy years old . . . pictures that could only grace a suburban parlour ah, but what about this?”

He looked up at them.

“Have you some of these chairs to show me?” His eyes were shining.

The chairs were, Harris said, priceless items made by master craftsmen late in the 16th century.

“If I’m thinking of the right ones, they came to Oxford from the court of the King of Denmark, as a gift. I once had sight of a very old list of items stored by the Clerk of Works at Christ Church. I mean, a hundred years old. I enquired about these very chairs they’re more like thrones, aren’t they? and he said that they simply were not in the college stores. Things get moved around this city passed between Masters of the richer colleges with hardly a record made. ” He looked keenly at Greene. “Tell me, have you found these chairs?”

Greene took back the inventory.

“We might almost,” he said, “claim quite the opposite.”


Used to make posts more anonymous, eg a criminal case where you don’t want to expose the actual journalist.