From now on we’re keeping a close eye on Cossett. We’ll watch every move he makes
Alf Cosset, Guv’nor!” declared Tommy Burke, with a meaning glance at his employer. “I’ll bet he’s our man. He specialises in jewellers’ shops, and always “cases” the job by pretending to be interested in buying a wedding ring. He’s got an eye for the best stuff, and never takes anything else.”
“As you say, Tommy,” agreed Hawke, “everything points to Cosset. We’ve nabbed him twice for jewel robberies, and his record at Scotland Yard gives all the facts you’ve mentioned. All the same,” added the private investigator,” suspecting Cosset is one thing – pinning this crime on him quite another. He’s a slippery customer, you know.”
“You mean, he’s probably got a water-tight alibi all nicely cooked up, Guv’nor?”
“It’ll surprise me greatly if he hasn’t,” was Hawke’s grim retort.
“We’ll have to go and talk to him, of course. There’s always the chance that, if he is the man we want, he may slip up and give himself away.”
The Dover Street detectives had been called in to investigate the theft of £15,000 worth of jewellery from the premises of a large shop in Curzon Street. The robbery had occurred the night before and it did not seem as though anyone employed by the firm could be implicated. One of the partners had been working until 11 pm and he was emphatic that all was in order when he left. The chief assistant had discovered the crime on opening the shop at 8.30 that morning.
Inquiries in the neighbourhood had brought the detectives no useful information – nothing suspicious had been seen or heard during the hours of darkness. But the details which Hawke and Tommy had noted pointed to a professional crook named Alf Cosset having been responsible.
The necessary finger-printing and other routine matters having been attended to, the detectives left Curzon Street and made their way to CID headquarters in Westminster, where they checked on Cosset’s recent movements. They were told that he had been out of jail for nearly a year, but he was suspected of being implicated in four recent jewel robberies.
“We didn’t have enough evidence to pin them on him, Mr Hawke,” the police officer said with a shrug. “So far, Alf’s been too smart for us. Maybe you’ll have better luck, though.”
From Scotland Yard, Dixon Hawke and Tommy Burke went along to the Brixton address they had been given, and found their man at home. Alf Cosset received them without blinking an eyelid. In answer to their questions he blandly informed them that he and a pal named Dan Miller had been out of London last night visiting a mutual acquaintance in Berkshire. They had only got back a couple of hours ago.
“Too bad, Hawke,” Alf wound up complacently. “You’ve had a lot of trouble for nothing. Time you chaps learned not to jump to conclusions.”
Outside the house, Tommy Burke turned to his boss angrily.
“He’s got a bloomin’ nerve, Guv’nor! He did that Curzon Street job, all right, but if his two precious cronies swear he was with them in Berkshire – well, we’ve had it.”
“We’re not letting it go at that,” replied Dixon Hawke. “From now on we’re keeping a close eye on Cosset. We’ll watch every move he makes, and see who he contacts. You can start right now, and if anything significant happens before I take over, phone me immediately.”
Just before midnight, when it was apparent that Alf Cosset had bedded down for the night, Tommy Burke returned to Dover Street to report.
“Don’t know what you’ll make of this, Guv’nor,” he began, “but during the evening Dan Miller dropped in on Alf Cosset. I remember Miller, because he was able to wriggle out of the Fulham jewel robbery that we got Alf for, two or three years ago. Well, the pair of them left Brixton about half-past eight, and went by bus to St John’s Wood.
They called at quite an imposing-looking house and stayed there the best part of an hour. They separated when they left, and I decided to keep on Cosset’s tail, since we weren’t so interested in the other bloke.”
Dixon Hawke nodded. “Good show, Tommy. What happened after that?”
“Cosset went straight back home, and stayed there. I hung on until now, but it’s not likely he’ll go out again. I’ll be back there early in the morning, though.”
“This house in St John’s Wood – any idea who lives there?” inquired Hawke.
“Sure,” replied Tommy. “I made a few inquiries, and discovered it’s a chap called Bassington Bruford, who’s well known in the world of music. Plays the guitar and the mandolin, and has quite a reputation on the concert platform abroad.”
Dixon Hawke was frowning as he crossed to a shelf of reference books to consult a large volume.
“That’s right,” he said. “R Bassington Bruford is listed here as a well-known authority on early English string music, especially the work of the 16th Century lutists. As you say Tommy, he is quite an important man in his own line. But what the dickens,” asked the private investigator, closing the reference books, “could a couple of crooks like Cosset and Miller want with a professional musician?”
“Perhaps Bruford is also a crook?” suggested Tommy. “You know the old saying about birds of a feather.”
“That’s quite possible,” commented Hawke, “and I must admit I can’t see any other reason for their visit.” “Maybe they’re learning the guitar,” smiled Tommy. Dixon Hawke laughed. “I hardly think so. Yet, whatever we may think, I don’t know what we can do about it. If we call on Bruford and he’s not associated with Cosset and Miller in anything shady, we’d look complete fools. If he is, a visit from us would only put him on his guard.”
“So what, Guv’nor?”
“We shan’t do anything for the moment, except continue to keep a watch on Cosset and make some inquiries about Bruford.”
“We’re going to have to do something about Cosset,” said Mr Bassington Bruford, passing a slender hand over his scanty hair, “He’s getting moody, Miller – and I don’t like it. The last time he brought me samples, he hinted that he wanted a bigger cut – said he’d get real nasty if the extra money were not forthcoming.”
“Blithering idiot!” declared Miller. “Surely he knows which side his bread’s buttered?”
“Possibly, he does,” was the dry retort, “but he went too far yesterday. I tried to make him understand that, although he gets all the trouble of picking up the stuff, I have to take the risk of marketing it. He didn’t seem to appreciate my point, and threatened to ‘squeal’!”
“The dirty little rat!” snorted Miller indignantly. “If he does that we’ve all had it. You can’t let him get away with it.”