BRITISH COMICS

(Rover Homepage)

TELEGRAPH TIM

 

The first episode taken from The Rover issue 1 March 4th 1922

 

Here’s a new pal for you—TELEGRAPH TIM.

He’s a boy messenger in London and his duties land him in many queer and dangerous adventures.

There’s a complete tale of his doings every week. You’ll enjoy them—there are no flies on T.T.

 

TIM SCENTS TROUBLE—

                  ---AND GETS IT.

“Grimm!” shouted Peter Parsons, desk clerk at Bowlers Road Sub-Post Office. “Grimm!” There was a clatter of feet, the door swung open, and No. 229 Timothy B. Grimm, boy messenger, otherwise and better known as Telegraph Tim, popped up in front of the desk. “Yessir!” Sharp and nippy, just like himself, was the boyish voice. Parsons slammed a wire across the desk. “Here, you young scaramouche! Take this message along. Look sharp! There’s a good lad. And for goodness sake hurry and grow up. I’m always afraid I’ll have tell your mother you have slipped through the bars of a gutter grating.” Tim did a grin, glanced at the address of the buff envelope, then breezed off towards Meckerston Square, that smart, aristocratic West End square where millionaires, Cabinet Ministers, and other famous folk reside.

He approached the Square from the north-east corner, and paused to ascertain which way he should go to find number eighty-seven. “Say, kiddy, are you streaking for number eighty-seven. Tim started as a hand fell on his shoulder. Looking up he encountered the face of a rather good-looking young man, whose eyes seemed extremely small, very bright, and for ever moving about in his head. Tim turned up his already tip-tiled nose. “Chuck it, Rastus! I ain’t giving prizes for a guessing competition. The man laughed, and at the same time a ten-shilling note appeared in his hands. “See here, bo,” he drawled. “You are a sport, I reckon. Don’t think I’m crooked, but I just happen to be doggone crazy over a girl at number eighty-seven. See? Upper housemaid she is, but her people won’t have none of the love stuff. Now, I happen to have the evening free to-night, and I want her to know. See? Here’s a note. Will you give it to her for me? And keep this for yourself.” The blue eyes of Telegraph Tim looked childishly innocent as his fingers grabbed the note and the letter. “I sure will,” he said, imitating the American drawl of the thin young man to the last degree. “But s’pose she don’t come to the door? And how did you guess I was goin’ to eighty-seven, anyhow?” “Give it to the butler, cully. He’s a pal o’ mine.” The speaker ignored Tim’s second question. Tim nodded and would have moved off, but the man’s hand still detained him. “Say! She might have a parcel for me. Does up my shirts and collars for me, y’know. Will you fetch it to me if she asks? Guess a bo wants to look real smart when he takes a girl out!” “You can trust T.T.,” said Tim as he winked and walked away. He did not look back. He went along whistling shrilly, his eyes glancing up on the lookout for number eighty-seven. But somehow he seemed thoughtful, and as he reached the gate of the house he wanted he mused, “Wot’s the giddy game, anyway?”

He gave a rat-tat at the door. A man dressed as a butler opened it. “Miss Perkins live ‘ere?” chirruped Tim. The man frowned at him angrily. “Miss who? No women here.” “Half a sec!” grinned Tim. “Telegram for ‘Howard,’ ” he said, handing out the telegram, and this note for a skivvy from a skinny Yank down the road” The butler stretched out his hand for the note, but Tim drew back. “Slow up!” he drawled. “Thought you said there wasn’t any girl here?” The man flushed. “I didn’t. I said no one named Perkins. I know the Yankee fellow who is after the maid, though. I’ll give her the note. Better wait for an answer to the wire.” The butler turned away, leaving Tim on the doorstep. The boy stared inquisitively into the hall. “Rum show this!” he said to himself, then suddenly he shivered. As he explained afterwards, he felt a worm creeping down his spine and felt his hair rise under his cap as a low moan of anguish fell on his ears then died away. It was a horrible sound—the sound of some human being in pain. He looked into the hall again, and then his blue eyes nearly fell out of his head. Upon the wallpaper he saw a smear. It was a smear of blood. For his fifteen years Tim had an uncommon amount of grit and horse sense. He crept a step forward, stretched out his fingers, and touched the wall. He shuddered as he looked at his finger tips. They were wet and dyed red. Then he drew back as his ears caught the sound of returning footsteps. The butler came to him. Under his arm he carried a parcel. “No reply to the wire, sonny,” he said. “But tell the bloke that Cissie’ll meet him to-night, and give him this parcel from her.” Tim keeping his face perfectly straight, pretended to hesitate. “Know what’s in the parcel?” he asked suspiciously. “I ain’t supposed to carry things like that, y’know. Might get me in a row.” “That’s all right,” said the man with a laugh. “I happened to see the girl packing a bit of cake and a pie and things for the young man. See?” “Oh, yes! I see,” nodded Tim as he turned and descended the steps.

He was glad it was dark. He was also glad that a London fog, with the suddeness of London fogs, had swept down upon the city. For Tim had no intention of meeting the American young man just yet. He glanced up and down the side of the square, made sure there was no one to see him, then darted round the corner and nipped along a narrow path that divided the houses of that side of the square from the back gardens of another row of houses. Safe here, he felt carefully over the paper parcel the butler had given him. “Hullo! Feels like a chain. And then something pretty thick. Whew! Reckon I’ll just weigh things up a bit.” He slipped off his cape, put it on the ground, and seated himself with his back against the garden wall of the Meckerston Square house. “Now, then. First of all a funny bloke meets me and asks if I’m goin’ to number eighty-seven. Mighty queer that he expected me to be going to number eighty-seven. Then he slips me ten bob to deliver a love letter to a servant. Does he? Strikes me skivvies’ sweethearts ain’t usually got so many ten bob notes to smack about!” Tim paused. “But he was a Yank. A god-durned, by heck, get-me-Steve Yank! Course he might have money, but he said the parcel was washing. And that wall-eyed butler said it was cake. Huhpm! But what about the moan? And this funny bundle? He goes to look in the parcel!” He untied the string and carefully opened the paper. Next moment a cry of astonishment escaped his lips, for his eyes beheld neither cake nor clean linen. The thing that lay exposed to view was a black leather satchel, about a foot and a half long by a foot wide. Fastened to it was a long chain with a small spring catch, the whole made of fine steel. And upon the front of the satchel was a first-quality brass lock. On the lock were deeply engraved these words THURLOW’S BANK.

Telegraph Tim stared with amazed eyes. Then slowly he lifted his fingers and frowned as he saw blood on them. Next moment he turned swiftly. From one of the houses at his back he heard, or he thought he heard, the same faint, low moan of someone in pain. “You can trust T.T.,” he said. With that he got to his feet, and in a moment was shinning up the wall. “I’m going to look into this ‘ere movie mystery.” In a moment Telegraph Tim was glancing along and counting the dividing walls of the gardens. Number eighty-seven had been the fifth from the end. “Here we are, then!” he grunted, as he dropped into the fifth garden, and until he had walked some paces he could not see the house through the fog. But, keeping behind some bushes, he approached near enough to see that the back door of the house stood wide open. He slipped across to the wall, and flattened himself against it. Not a soul had stirred. Silently he took off his boots, hid them behind a box on the stone paving outside the scullery, and crept into the house. Up the stairs he went, ready on the instant to turn or to slip his heavily buckled belt and use it to good purpose should his escape be threatened. On the first floor he heard the sound of voices. He did not stay to listen, but crept up the stairs. It was lighter here than it had been, and he could see blood marks on the walls and now and then clots of blood freshly spilled on the stairs. At last he came to the top floor. Straight before him was a door. The blood splashed around it was sufficient to make him want to enter. Tim tried the handle. The door did not yield. For a moment he hesitated. “Perishing pickles!” he exclaimed. “What the dickens am I doing here? S’pose I’m wanted at the office? S’pose I get caught, and they cut off my ears and chop ‘em up fine or skewer my eye lids with fret saws!” He shuddered. Despite his broad grin, Tim felt a little afraid. He darted to the door of an adjoining room, ducked his head inside, and laughed as he saw a key in the lock. He extracted it, and put it in the door. The doors were very ordinary deal doors, such as would be fitted to servants’ bedrooms on the topmost landing of a London house, and the locks were all the same. The key grated rustily, then turned. Next moment Tim was in the room. As a precaution he immediately locked the door upon himself, then, drawing a sharp breath, turned a little scared at what his eyes might meet. On the bed lay a man, with a curious cut coat, like a morning coat by reason of its tails. The jacket was adorned with three brass buttons. Tim crept to the man’s side, and stared at the buttons. He saw something was written or stamped upon them – “Thurlow’s Bank.” “Well, I’m jiggered!” exclaimed the lad. “A bank messenger! That’s it! They’ve kidnapped ‘im. That was ‘is wallet. They caught him after a full breakfast at the bank somewhere and robbed ‘im of that leather case. Now, what’s the terrible Tim to do?” He scrambled on to the bed, dragged the blood-soaked and unfortunate messenger on to his back. “Hi, you.” He whispered, “for the love of the messenger perfession of which we are both ornaments, tell me what’s up. Don’t let me down now, old son. Wake up! Tell me who you are.”

The man moved. He opened his eyes painfully, drunkenly, stupidly. “Police!” he mumbled. “Got me in Spanyer Street. Eighty thousand! Billiter’s cashed draft! Doped—I fought—fought, but they won. Go, telegraph boy! Tele—my wallet, my wallet—!” It was the man’s last valiant effort. Tim did not wait. He saw the man was unconscious again, his last vestige of strength gone. Tim slipped from the bed. He knew what he meant to do. He must get to the police. As though recorded on a gramophone record the wounded bank messenger’s words were engraved in his memory. He slipped out of the room, turned the key in the door, and stole downstairs. Half-way down he stopped in alarm as he heard the street door slam and some rush into the room. When he reached the landing he could hear a medley of voices raised in anger. Tim did not stop to try to ascertain the cause. His whole mind was fixed on getting safely from the place with his life and his secret. But he dared not make too much haste. He reached the basement, gained the garden, found his boots, thrust his feet into them, and without bothering to tie the laces made for the back wall. He reached it in safety. At top speed he scrambled over the wall, retrieved the wallet from the place he had hidden it, got back into the court, opened the wallet, and searched it. Then he heard footsteps and voices approaching from the top of the narrow courtway. Swiftly he bent down and began tying his bootlaces. Next moment he heard a vicious shout, looked up, and saw the Yank rushing at him. He had no chance to escape. He went on calmly tying his lace. “Yah!” snarled the man. “You’ll say just what you’re spoiling this ‘ere landscape for, bo?” “Can’t you see?” snapped back Tim; “tying my bootlace.” Next moment he was jerked to his feet. “Guess you’ve got mighty poor bootlaces.” Tim knew he was done. He bit his lips hard and blinked. “That’s sure funny,” he drawled. “T’other one’s undone too. Didn’t notice it.” The butler came up. He thrust a vicious jaw forward, and a pudgy, cruel hand pointed to the satchel. “You’re right, Symes,” he hissed, with an oath, “that kid’s been too inquisitive for once. Bring him along.” Tim knew better than to offer resistance. In two minutes he was flung, gagged and bound, in a filthy coal cellar below the front steps of number eighty-seven Meckerston Square.

THE HOUDINI TOUCH

Telegraph Tim was exactly four feet and six and a half inches in height, and to use his own rather impolite but very concise term, skinny in proportion. It has already been mentioned that when the Yank came upon him he was tying one bootlace, while the other remained to have that office performed. These three facts—his shortness, skinniness, and untied bootlaces—were to prove the saving grace of Tim. He lay on the coals until the laughing, sneering voices of his captors died away. He heard their feet ascending the stairs. Then he moved, first of all because a bed of coal nuts is not too soft, and secondly because Tim wanted to touch the backs of his heels. He had his arms tied behind him. His captors thought they had left nothing to chance in doing so. Actually they had given Tim a chance. With an effort his bound hands felt for the heel of his untied boot. He thrust and thrust, and finally the boot shot off. It made a horrible noise; but apparently no one heard it. The effect of removing the boot was to enable the boy to work his foot free of the rope binding his ankle. It wasn’t easily done. The nobs of coal were painfully nobbly, but at last it was done. As he freed his feet Tim heard the noise of a motor crawling up in the street and the slow tread of men coming down the stairs. He lay still. Would they come for him? Would they kill him if they came? Or would they leave him? Then he heard the sound of voices. There were four men, he judged, standing immediately in the street above the cellar talking. Tim got up, and. Balancing himself carefully, moved up the young coal mountain. It was ticklish work. Try it for yourselves—walking up a coal heap with your arms tied behind you.

But he succeeded. He knew he succeeded when he bumped his head against the stone roofing. Then very gingerly his head moved to the circular iron lid through which coalmen shoot the black nuggets. His head touched it. He stepped higher, and pushed ever so gently. If any one of the men were standing on it, it would not have budged. Tim knew that. On the other hand, if it moved a trifle he might hear. It did move. Tim did hear—not a lot and not distinctly—but he caught the words “Charing Cross Station,” “right away,” “boat train,” and something about “leaving the door open for him to be found.” The last part Tim couldn’t understand. Then, hearing one of the men run up the steps into the house, he slipped gently back on to the coal and lay down. He was just in time. He heard someone outside the cellar door. If they opened it, what would they do? Kill him? Take him with them? But they did not open the door, though Tim was certain their fingers did something to the handle outside. Then he heard the men walk to the pavement, heard a cab door shut, and a motor tune up and whirr away. Tim waited two, five, ten minutes. “I’ve ‘ad enough of this,” he told himself. “I’m chancing it.” He got to his feet, gathered himself together for a rush, and launched himself full blast at the door. Tim shot through and was brought up against the staircase opposite. He crept softly up the stairs, fearful lest one of his enemies should still be in the house. Then to his amazement he saw the side door standing wide open. Instantly he understood the conspirator’s last words. They meant someone to find the door open in the morning, investigate, and discover him. Next moment Tim, his mouth still full of gag, his hands still firmly secured behind him, rushed into the street.

THE TABLES TURNED

Tim tore round Meckerston Square like a racehorse, dashed into Cadogan Place, and eventually rushed up Sloane Street. Here the electric lamps were powerful enough to reveal him to the public. In a moment he was being chased by half-a-dozen people. Some ladies screamed. No wonder. Imagine a coal-black telegraph boy, capless, gagged, hands bound, one boot off, rushing wildly along a street at London’s busiest evening hour. Tim did not stop until he saw a policeman. Then he rushed madly and forcibly into his arms. Nothing scares a London bobby into forgetting his duty. In a second he had caught Tim good and hard with one hand, in another he had hiked the gag out of his mouth. “Quick!” gasped Tim. “There’s been a houtrage at Thurlow’s Bank and—” “Here,” said the policeman. “If you know anything about that you’re the most wanted young man in London.” The policeman said no more. He did not even wait for a taxi. He saw a magnificent car just coming up the road within arm’s length. He held up his hand, and Tim beheld a top-hatted toff and two ladies in diamonds and evening dress in the car. “I say,” objected the gentleman, thrusting his head out of the car, “what’s the meaning of this? There’s no obstructing—” The policeman saluted with one hand, and opened the cab door with the other. “Sorry, sir,” he said, “but—in the name of the law, if you don’t mind. Drive to Salem Street Police Station,” he shouted to the chauffeur. In five minutes or less they were at the police station. They forgot about their dinner appointment to listen to Tim telling his story to the station inspector.

Meanwhile other police officers seemed to be getting mighty busy. There were telephone conversations, ordering of cabs, and the dispatch of little groups of policemen, uniformed and in plain clothes. “You’re sure they said Charing Cross?” asked the inspector. “Am I a telegraph or am I not?” retorted the indignant Tim. “I tell you they said Charing Cross. They’ve got that messenger fellow with them; I heard them carrying him downstairs. They walked slowly.” Tim was in at the death. As they arrived at Charing Cross Station they saw a little group of men hurrying down the platform. Behind them came a second group, helping a man who seemed to be very sick by the way he was bandaged and muffled up. Tim recognised his late friends the Yank and the butler. He grabbed the inspector’s arm and pointed. “Them!” That was all he said. It was all over in three shakes of a wire form. The inspector merely took off his hat, tapped it with his left hand, and as he did so a swarm of big men seemed to flow from all corners of the station and surge around the escaping crooks. There was hardly a scuffle. The crooks know too well they were outnumbered. And then they were marched back towards the entrance. Each had a stalwart plain-clothes man at either hand to keep him from feeling “lonely.” Hank G. Symes, America’s greatest crook, duly appeared in Court, when he was sentenced to ten years penal servitude for attempted robbery and assault. His colleague, Moss Gibbons, received a similar sentence, while the other two men received stiff sentences as being the brains behind the now famous attempt to lift “Thurlow’s Thousands” from their trusted bank messenger when that individual was waylaid on going to the Spanyer Street branch to collect the notes of the big draft from Billiter’s, of New Bond Street. Tim’s part in the affair was of course, given adequate space in the daily newspapers. His mother doesn’t worry about making ends meet now. Thurlow’s Bank, Ltd., have seen to that. But Tim declined to leave the telegraph service.

 

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2007