Empire Of Steam: Chapter 18

Chapter Eighteen: The Raid On The Mansion

 

Thanks to Hardy the police now knew, without doubt, who was behind this attack on London. It did not take them long to act against him. But perhaps Hardy’s action had not really brought forward anything at all.

Sir George Walker, as soon as he had heard that land ironclads were running amok in London, knew that his friend – his former friend – had to be involved in some manner, once he had got over the shock of hearing the news concerning the land ironclads. Walker realised that he had been played for a fool, and that his old friend had been planning this for a long time. The swap in production at some of the factories from making ordinary goods to making military armaments – it had all been about what seemed like an attempt at insurrection.

Walker, like Hardy, felt that Monk must have gone mad, once it was confirmed that it was Monk’s war machines that were attacking London. They could not have belonged to anybody else. His friend had gone mad. The death of Eliza had somehow driven him over the edge.

Walker, had he not been a minister in Her Majesty’s Government, would have gone to the mansion and begged Sir Edward to stop. But there was no time for that. Not now. It was too late.

Instead Walker was summoned to an emergency cabinet meeting, to discuss what was to be done about the war machines. It ended up being one of the shortest meetings which were ever held. It was agreed by all present that the war machines had to be stopped, and as soon as possible.

The police, by themselves, would not be enough. Truncheons and revolvers were no use against such war machines (the cabinet had not yet heard about Constable Davis’s heroic action in taking out a land ironclad). The only thing which could be done was to bring the army in, and as soon as possible, from the barracks around London. Orders were issued straight away to bring soldiers in to assist the police in stopping the war machines.

Then there was the matter of Sir Edward Monk himself. It was his war machines, after all, which were on the streets of London. Here Walker argued for mercy towards his old friend. But Walker was not listened to. He was overruled by the other members of the cabinet.

Sir Edward Monk was to be brought to justice. Perhaps he was entirely behind what was going on. Perhaps some criminal opportunists were using his war machines in this attack. But, either way, Monk would be brought in for questioning.

 

It was a combined action by the police and the British Army which entered the grounds of the mansion. The army led the way, with a land ironclad smashing through the wrought iron gates, sending them flying off their hinges. It would be a long time before anybody bothered to put them back on the entrance.

The land ironclad rumbled over the grey granite grit, and onto the lawn at the front of the house, its caterpillar tracks digging up the grass. It swivelled its turret to point its gun at the mansion. But it did not fire as yet.

Next to the land ironclad a small artillery piece was dragged into action. That, too, was faced towards the mansion, as though that was the focal point of the rebellion. Soldiers took up position on the lawn and on the gravel drive. Each soldier’s rifle and revolver had been produced in the armament factories of Sir Edward Monk.

The police had come in a steam-powered Black Maria. They took up positions behind their vehicle, not wanting to get in the way if any bullets started flying. Let the soldiers deal with any resistance.

They had no idea just what they would be facing at the mansion. But the presumption was that it was unlikely that Sir Edward Monk would come quietly. It was thought that he must have organised all this. It was his change in production from commercial items, to purely military ones, which was thought to be the proof. If that was the case, then he might well have men armed with weapons at this mansion, in order to protect himself.

The officer in charge of this action put a loudhailer to his lips.

“Come out with your hands over your head or we will fire on the mansion.” he shouted. He shouted the same message twice. He had intended to shout it three times. But there was no need to repeat it after the second time.

The front door to the mansion opened. The doorman, Walters, stood in the entrance with his hands held up above his head. The normally unflappable man looked exceedingly concerned. This was not something which he had ever experienced before; and he did not know what this was about.

The news concerning the rebellion of Sir Edward Monk had not yet reached the place where he lived. Being out in the country the telephone lines had not yet reached places like this mansion. Even if it had, then the telephone would have been only for Monk. None of the servants would have touched such a thing.

The only thing which Walters knew about what was going on was that Sir Edward Monk had left that morning, driven away by Johnson, in the Mark Three automobile, and that the two men had not yet returned. Walters knew nothing about what was going on in London.

Therefore, when a small military attachment, accompanied by the police, had smashed through the gates to the mansion, and set up position on the front lawn, it had come as a great shock to him, and all of the other servants in the house. They wondered if Britain had been invaded. Yet why should the British Army come to attack them?

“Don’t shoot!” Walters called out. “Don’t shoot!”

A couple of police officers, feeling very nervous (and looking at the windows in case there were any sharpshooters there) rushed over to Walters to arrest him. All of the people in the mansion were to be considered to be potential accomplices of Sir Edward Monk. All of them were to be arrested. It could be worked out later whether they were guilty or not.

Walters had his hands cuffed behind his back. The manacles felt cold and harsh around his wrists. He had never been arrested in his life, and he did not like the feeling of the cuffs.

His prime emotion, though, was amazement at what was going on. He did not understand what the army and the police were doing here. He had heard nothing of what was going on in London.

“Where is Sir Edward Monk?” Captain Sturgis – the officer in charge – shouted at Walters. The doorman was more than a little taken aback. He did not like being in handcuffs. And he did not like being shouted at.

“He is not here.” Walters said.

The army officer shouted at Walters again. More members of the mansion staff had come out of the mansion, to see what all the shouting was all about. They, too, soon had their wrists in steel manacles behind their backs. They all said that they did not know where Sir Edward Monk was, in answer to the shouted questions.

The army officer concentrated on Walters, as though he must be the ringleader, just because he had come out of the mansion first. But that was only because he was the doorman, and he had been closest to the door.

Walters was not able to say much, because he did not have all that much to tell.

He did not know where Sir Edmund Monk was, apart from the fact that he was not in the mansion at this moment in time. Walters did not when Monk was due to return.

“He left yesterday.” Walters said, in answer to yet one more questioned barked at him. “He went off in his Mark Three.”

“Mark Three?”

“His automobile.” Walters sighed. He was tired, and wanted the manacles of his wrists. He suspected that his next conversation might have to be with some lawyer.

“Where did he go?” Sturgis barked.

“I do not know.” Walters replied, pulling himself up to his full height. “It is not for a servant to interrogate his master.”

Sturgis kept interrogating Walters and the other servants for a few more minutes. But none of them seemed to know where Monk had gone to. Sturgis got the same tale: that Monk had gone away on the previous day, and had not yet returned; that they had no idea where he might have gone to; and that he had spent a lot of time out in his steam-powered automobile in recent days. But none of the mansion staff could have told Sturgis where sir Edward Monk was, as none of them – bar Johnson – had any idea about the secret facility; and that was where Johnson was.

Once Sturgis became convinced that the chambermaids and others were not going to tell him anything he requested the police to go into the mansion to look for Sir Edward Monk, or for clues as to where he might be. The police went in, and searched for an hour. But, in the end, they came out empty-handed: no Monk, and no idea as to where he might be.

 

Down the road, some way away from the unfolding scene, stood John Hardy. He had arrived just as the police and army had been entering the grounds of the mansion, and had been able to do nothing but watch them pour inside. Then he had crept along to where the gates had been, hoping to see Sir Edward Monk brought out of the mansion. But it soon became clear to Hardy that Sir Edward Monk was not there.

Hardy had waited for the police and army to go away. He had seen all of the servants put into the back of a Black Maria; no doubt taken away for questioning. He had seen the police go inside the house to search it. He had backed off when he saw them come out empty-handed.

The police and army went away. He watched them go. Then Hardy walked back down the road, and through where a land ironclad had smashed the gates down.

He wanted answers as to why all of this was going on. He had hoped to get them from Sir Edward. But perhaps he could find that which the police had missed.

In the past Sir Edward had said to Hardy how all of his thoughts had been put into a large, black journal. If that was still in the house then it might explain why Sir Edward seemed to have gone mad. Oh, Hardy was not stupid, and he knew that it had been the death of Eliza Monk which had helped to cause all this. But he still needed to read what Monk had expected to achieve by declaring war on London. Why had he decoded on chaos and death, throwing away everything which he had achieved?

 

Hardy walked up to the front doors of the house. The last time that Hardy had been here it had been the day of the funeral. He had returned here with Sir Edward Monk and the other mourners. Food had been laid on. Hardy had eaten a little. But Monk had not eaten anything at all.

Hardy tried the front doors. They were unlocked. He went into the hall beyond.

The police had not bothered to lock up after them. Anybody could come into the mansion. But this was not London, and Hardy doubted if there were many thieves in the area. It was funny, but if this was in some place where people were really poor – Whitechapel, or Camden, or somewhere like that – it might have been burgled by now, even though there would have been nothing to steal.

Hardy walked into the library. Perhaps Sir Edward Monk had put the journal on the shelves with the other books. He looked down the spines of the books on those shelves. But all of the books were ones which had been published, rather than some journal written by Sir Edward Monk.

Hardy noticed that there were gaps in the shelves, as though books had been there, but had been removed. He presumed, falsely, that the police must have taken them away. Why the police should remove books from Monk’s library was a mystery to Hardy.

He did not realise that the missing books were in a box down in a hidden, underground base.

Hardy went into the study. This place was a mess. It looked like the police had already thoroughly gone through the place, as there were papers all over the floor. He searched the study, though, including the writing desk. But there was no sign of a journal.

 

Walters sat glumly in the back of the Black Maria as he and the others were driven away by the police, for questioning. The police had said that they were all going to be questioned. But Walters did not know why the police could not question them at the mansion, rather than have to take them all down the police station. He suspected that the police were looking for somebody to blame, as they had not been able to find Sir Edward.

Walters had told them that he had no idea where Sir Edward was. He had already said as much as he knew. Sir Edward had gone off somewhere with Johnson, in the steam automobile. But Johnson had no idea where that somewhere was.

Walters had seen the change in Sir Edward over the past few months, as Eliza had got worse, and then died. All of the staff had been aware that Sir Edward was not himself. He had once been a cheerful and energetic man, always working on some new design in his study, or off into London to check on his factories. But ever since his wife had become ill… well, that was when the change had begun. It had only got worse as Eliza had sickened. But, now that she was dead… Walters no longer knew the man who he worked for.

Walters sighed, and leant back against the Black Maria, wondering what would happen next.

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