The discovery of gold in Australia in 1851 created huge excitement and at its peak, some two tonnes of gold per week flowed into the Treasury Building in Melbourne. The gold exported to Britain in the 1850s paid off all Britain’s foreign debts and helped lay the foundation of their enormous commercial expansion.
Within a year of the gold discoveries over 90,000 people from around the world migrated to Victoria and New South Wales, heading for the gold fields, or wanting a better life in the booming colonies. We’ll never know how many were on the run from the law, changing their names and boarding those overcrowded ships to become anonymous faces in this southern continent larger than Europe.
In Full Circle, a brilliant embezzler does just that.
Full Circle blurb –
A member of London’s upper echelons of society discovers his wealth, and the wealth of his business partner, currently in the colony of New South Wales, have been embezzled by their secretary-accountant, who has disappeared. Desperate to avoid public humiliation, he begs Metropolitan Police detective Lloyd Harrington to investigate privately. What Lloyd discovers takes him thirteen thousand miles to the new thriving colony where a young woman, also from London, takes pleasure delivering the news to the other partner. Arresting her as an accomplice to this huge theft does not break her nor the fear of hanging will make her sorry for what she’s done.
A complex tale of mystery, intrigue, and revenge. How the tale and its principals actually come the full circle will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Lloyd raised his glass for the obligatory ‘your health’ and sipped the excellent single malt. “Why did you want to see me, Doctor?”
“Sit down, and please, I’m Arthur,” Another tense pause. “I need your help. Discreet help.”
“I am no longer a detective with the Metropolitan Police,” Lloyd warned.
“I’m aware of that. I understand you were injured in a shocking riot and invalided out of active duty, although you have not resigned.”
“That’s correct,” Lloyd said carefully.
Arthur raised his eyebrows. “Have your injuries healed?”
“Almost, although sleep occasionally evades me.”
“From what I was told, you were lucky to survive. Nasty business. Glad the culprits were caught and punished.” Arthur drew a deep breath. “This is damned embarrassing. No other way to say it. I’ve lost everything.”
Lloyd’s glass stopped midway to his mouth. “What do you mean lost everything?”
“I arrived home from France three days ago to discover my affairs have been mismanaged and I am penniless.” Arthur drained his glass.
Lloyd leaned forward in his chair. “Mismanaged by whom?”
“I was a damned fool, I should have been more attentive, but everything was going along swimmingly, and we trusted him implicitly.”
“Whom did you trust implicitly?”
“Frank’s personal secretary. Worked for him for years.” Arthur wiped his damp eyes. “Now he’s disappeared.”
“Who is ‘him’ and who has disappeared?”
“Sorry, I’m not making myself clear. Frank Owens is a close friend and business colleague. His secretary Henry Todd has disappeared.”
“How did you find out?”
Arthur’s face flushed dark red. “I came home to stiff letters from my tailor and my club. Their cheques had been dishonoured. I was mortified, and convinced the bank was at fault, I demanded they rectify it immediately, only to be told the account was empty. In fact, a few pounds overdrawn. It was a terrible shock.
“I drove to Frank’s home to question Henry Todd, but he wasn’t there. According to Frank’s housekeeper, two weeks earlier Todd told her he was visiting friends in the country for a few days. He never returned and she discovered his belongings had gone. The clerk assisting Todd has also disappeared. When the housekeeper told me two officious bank officials had called with letters demanding to know Frank’s whereabouts, I took the liberty of opening one of them.” He rubbed his eyes. “A curt request to discuss his overdrawn account.”
Lloyd frowned. “Did you speak to your bank manager? Find out when and where your money went?”
Arthur swallowed. “Yes, he showed me the last three months’ transactions. My signature was on every withdrawal. I told him I did not sign them.” He cleared his throat. “Let me correct myself. I did withdraw money from time to time, like we all do, but not all that he showed me. His pitying look told me I was denying the fact I’ve been living beyond my means. I was so humiliated I got up and walked out.”
“Where is Frank Owens?”
“Apologies again, I’m jumping ahead of myself. Frank left England on 15th January for the colony of New South Wales and—”
Lloyd held up his hand. “Frank Owens leaves Henry Todd and the clerk in charge of his affairs while he travels to the colonies? You go about your business as usual and travel to France?”
“Yes. Frank travelled often. I prefer England but I did spend three weeks in France and came home to this. There is more. The day after I came home, I received word my home in Brighton had been destroyed by fire. The local police suspect arson.”
Lloyd stared at the devastated man. “Good God, have you spoken to the London police about this?”
“No,” Arthur closed his eyes. “I count London’s esteemed medical fraternity and quite a few members of the upper class as friends. I couldn’t face the humiliation of being branded a bloody fool. I’m asking you to investigate, in a private capacity. I want you to find this swindler and before you ask, I am selling two paintings which should cover your fee.”
“Before I agree to anything, I need you to start at the beginning,” Lloyd held up his glass. “I’ll need another.”
Jan Selbourne was born in Melbourne Australia and her love of literature and history began
as soon as she could hold a book. After graduating from business college her career began in
the dusty world of ledgers and accounting, working in Victoria, Queensland and the United
Kingdom. On the point of retiring, she changed course to work for a large New South Wales
historical society. Now retired Jan is writing historical fiction. She has two adult children, a
lovable dog and lives near Maitland, New South Wales.