Over the weekend I was going through my grandfather’s old briefcase which I have kept for sentimental reasons. It’s a battered old brown leather case and it contains various papers, mainly dividend receipts from his investments. It smells of old documents and I find it a very comforting thing which reminds me of a wonderful man.
In among the papers was a letter which I hadn’t noticed before. It’s dated 19th January, 1963 and it’s from a time when my grandparents owned and ran a school. The matter it addresses is Parkfield Schools Ltd -v- S.Faux and it’s from the wonderfully named ‘Discreet Enquiry Bureau’. Sadly this no longer exists and Google earth shows me a residential house at the address. It’s likely that the Bureau was a lone self-employed private investigator; a ‘gumshoe’.
The Bureau had been contracted my my grandfather to track down this Faux fellow, who they were suing for some reason and who appears to have done a runner. Perhaps their solicitors put him in touch with the Bureau, as they forwarded the letter to him. A more romantic idea is that he found it in the small ads in the back of a newspaper. My grandmother was a wonderful lady and she would not have been directly involved in such matters, but I know that she would have followed the shenanigans with great interest.
The Bureau followed the rogue Faux to the address he had given as a forwarding address and found that his name was not on the nameplate. Instead there was the name ‘Raux’. Faux is French for ‘false’; had he given a false name, even using it in court, and been so brazen as to taunt with wordplay?
The false fellow had moved on again and had given a forwarding address, but cancelled it after four weeks. At this point he goes off radar. However, the Bureau, no doubt by discreet enquiry, ascertained that Faux or Raux was known to frequent the infamous Curzon Club in W1. Now we really are starting to get the measure of the man. A rogue, a gambler, in my imagination now sporting a thin pencil moustache and wearing a sharp pinstripe double breasted suit.
It is just one chapter of a bigger story. We don’t know what this chap had done in the first instance, nor do we know what happened next. Did the Discreet Enquiry Bureau ever find their man? Was he called up to explain his nefarious activities. You don’t use an alias in life without good reason, and having the sangfroid to stand in court and swear by it certainly implies a villainous nature. My search for further documents sadly yielded none.
I was delighted to find this letter. It made me feel close to my grandparents again, whom I adored and who died over 30 years ago. However, the writer in me would have been intrigued by this letter even without that connection. The wonderfully named Discreet Enquiry Bureau harks back to a time long gone. These days almost everything in the letter would have been discovered using the internet and much of the investigation would have been conducted using it. Has the internet made it easier for rogues to vanish and hide, or has it made it more difficult? Locard’s Exchange Principle is one of the principles of forensic science and it is summarised as ‘every contact leaves a trace’. Then we have a respectable private school being wronged by someone who appears to go by an alias. I wonder what happened. No doubt it was some financial matter and nothing too serious, or I would have heard about it I’m sure. The final piece of intrigue is his frequenting of the Curzon Club, which throws in glamour and a little extra seediness.
I am probably imbuing the story with more romance than it deserves, but I shall continue to develop the story and it will be the starting point for my next murder mystery script. It began with the discovery of an intriguing letter.