The December Rose
The story is set in the shadowy world of the Victorian Docklands. A small boat is floating in the water close to the London docks. Two people are evident in the boat, however one is dead (or about to be dead), the other is cloaked in black. Inside the dead man's hand is a small locket. The locket is prized out of the dead hand before the body is tossed overboard into the water. Attached to the body is a stone weight which quickly descends to the bottom of the water.
The scene then changes to a large house where some important people have just finished dinner and are now pursing other matters. In the kitchen a local master chimney sweep (Mr Roberts) is trying to sell a small boy to a large house. The small boy named Barnacle (on account of his ability to cling onto objects) gets stuck up a chimney but eventually comes crashing down into a room with several important people discussing matters of state. By accident Barnacle came down the wrong chimney. They believe him to have overheard something but before anyone can do anything Barnacle starts panicking and throws food and other household objects at the men. Inspector Creaker tries to catch the boy, but as Barnacle grabs some more missiles he accidently grabs the locket (the same locket from the boat scene). The locket shines at Creaker who thinks back to the incident on the boat. That moment's hesitation is enough for Barnacle to make his escape. He takes the locket and some spoons and escapes out of the window hotly pursued by Roberts. The chase goes on through the street until Barnacle is hidden by a stranger he runs into. Back at the house Inspector Creaker is given the task of dealing with the boy and the recovery of what he has taken. The others are curious as to why Creaker hesitated but he does not reveal the reason. Lady Hobart leaves the group as she points out that these are affairs of state - clearly something important was going down here and the locket is crucial to the matter.
Barnacle is taken into the inn by Tom Gosling. Tom buys him a glass of milk and then leaves the inn closely followed by Barnacle. Back at Mr Roberts, the sweep returns home and sees a light on. He mistakenly assumes that Barnacle has returned and is a bit surprised to find Inspector Creaker waiting for him. Roberts informs Creaker that the men at the Jolly Bargeman have Barnacle. Roberts asks about what was stolen but Creaker evades and informs him that stolen goods are the property of Lord Hobart. Back with Tom Gosling, Barnacle has followed him home but in order to stay he must be bathed which Tom does. Creaker goes to the local inn to try and find Barnacle. The men do not reveal the whereabouts of Tom and Barnacle. Tom takes Barnacle to his home, a boat called the Lady. Tom gives Barnacle a pillow and blanket to sleep on. The ship leaves dock and sails through the night. the next morning Barnacle tries to leave quietly but is captured by Miranda. Tom flirts a little with Miranda's mother while he discusses what the will do with the boy. Clara McDipper is the captain/mistress of the Medway Queen.
Back on dry land, Hastymite and the inspector meet at Hastymite's club. We learn that a ship called "The December Rose" is due to arrive in a a few days and the inspector's job is to watch for anyone trying to leave the boat especially anyone who is an enemy of the state. We also learn of the importance of the locket. It is a recognition device in that the ship is to deliver money and the money will not be handed over unless the locket is displayed. We finally learn the identity of the body thrown overboard at the start. She was a woman and the original owner of the locket. Creaker had been watching her and then pursued her in order to retrieve the item. How she dies is not clear but Creaker is definitely upset by her death. Hastymite tells Creaker that he did his duty for his country and that he should be proud of that fact but Creaker is obviously haunted by the death of the young woman. Creaker and Roberts eventually track down Barnacle but Roberts does not recognise Barnacle since his wash and new attire. Creaker is not so sure and continues to observe.
Later that night small boat approaches a ship anchored at sea. The small boat's passenger requests permission to come aboard as he has a message for a Colonel Brodsky. The man goes aboard and we learn that he and the Colonel are old friends. Joseph the messenger, works for someone else and the three have been hatching a plan. We learn that the Colonel sent a letter to Madame Vassilov (the name of the woman who is thrown overboard at the start) which he knew would be intercepted by the police. The letter was bait for a much larger plant that is being plotted. Joseph hands over a small bag containing jewels and gold to the Colonel. We learn that there is to be a meeting at the Eagle and Child at St. Catherine's stairs. Later, Clara and Miranda board the December Rose and are introduced via Captain O'Shea to the Russian Colonel. The Colonel is to be taken to the stairs via the Medway Queen. Miranda talks to the Colonel and instantly recognises the watch he has in his possession. The black eagle is identical to that found on Barnacle's locket. He offers Miranda his fur hat if she will show him where she saw the first locket. They all head for the inn where Barnacle is staying and the Colonel learns that the locket was taken from the big house by Barnacle. The Colonel also learns that Inspector Creaker was present in the room and he now realises that Madame Vassilova must be dead. While they are all talking, a stranger in the bar pretends to sleep whilst secretly listening and observing the goings on. The watcher reports back to the Inspector who in turn reports back to Hastymite.
Tom Gosling now speaks to the Colonel about his activities. Tom is unhappy about the Colonel being afraid of the police and not going out in daylight. The Colonel asks Barnacle about the house where he stole the locket. Barnacle explains that he was a climbing boy and that he was taken to houses but did not know where they were. Barnacle suggests that they see Mr Roberts. Meanwhile the whistling boy who is working with the Inspector approaches the Lady barge. Tom and Barnacle go and see Mr Roberts who cannot believe his eyes that the boy is Barnacle. Although he accepts that the boy is Barnacle, he has the sad duty to inform that Barnacle is dead, that is dead on paper. Mr. Roberts told the orphanage that Barnacle had died in order to get a new boy. Hence the paperwork clearly stated that Barnacle was deceased and hence Mr Roberts did not want him back. Tom then asked about the house which Barnacle stole the locket from. Roberts refuses to answer as he has had the police round and hence the pair leave empty handed. Back at the barge, Clara tells Tom that he is an idiot, they can find the house merely by identifying the crest on the silver spoon that Barnacle stole. When they return to the barge, they find that the Colonel is badly hurt. They send for Dr. Norris who arrives promptly and is able to save the Colonel. The whistling boy was responsible for the attack and proudly tells the Inspector of his attempt. He also hands over the watch that the Colonel was carrying. The Inspector informs the boy that the Colonel is not dead and that he must retrieve the bag containing all the gold. The boy promises to do better next time and to take care of Barnacle.
The Colonel asks Tom to go to see a man called Lord Stirling. He gives Tom a letter to take. Clara insists on going with him and to make matters worse, Tom asks the whistling boy to watch the barges. The whistling boy cannot believe his luck - talk about paying the cat to look after the canary. Tom and Clara arrive at Lord Stirling's residence and show the butler (Joseph) the letter and the locket. The butler instantly recognises them as friends and shows them inside to see Lord Stirling. Stirling is extremely concerned about his friend the Colonel and asks how he is. Lord Stirling explains that a secret police unit had been set up to prevent terrorism on the streets on London but that unit was now responsible for murder and robbery and that money being stolen was ending up in the hands of those that control the secret police detachment. Tom shows Stirling the spoon with the family crest. Joseph the butler recognises the crest as that of the Hobarts. Stirling is shocked by this fact. Joseph explains that Hobart is short of money and the facts add up. He also explains that Hobart works with Hastymite. Clara tells Lord Stirling that they believe the original owner of the locket may be dead. Stirling agrees that she is and he thinks back to when he last saw the Madame Vassilova sitting in that very room with the locket around her neck. Stirling explains that Creaker may be innocent of the crime as he is loyal to his country and may not know what is happening. He warns them both to be wary of Creaker but that the real monsters are Hobart and Hastymite.
Meanwhile back on the barge, Barnacle is trying to get some money to help Tom pay for his boat as without payment in three days, the boat will be seized by the owners. The whistling boy attempts to kill Barnacle with a knife but Miranda wallops him on the head and he falls into the water. Miranda explains about the incident and they all realise they are in great danger and that they must trust only each other. The body is washed up on the shore the next morning much to the annoyance of the Inspector. Joseph arrives later that day with news form Lord Stirling. They decide to hatch a plan to deal with Inspector and the other bad guys. Tom requests to go and meet with the Inspector and give him the bag from the Colonel. He is to tell the Inspector about what Hobart and Hastymite are about and they have turned him into a common criminal. Barnacle decides to deliver the bag himself as he feels Tom has done enough. The Inspector eventually catches up with Barnacle but he is very suspicious. He does not believe Barnacle about the monsters in charge but at the same time there is a nagging doubt in his mind. He takes Barnacle to the Hobart's residence and to his horror he learns that Hobart and Hastymite are crooks stealing the money he has brought them and spending it on luxury goods. They realise that a brandy and a pat on the back will not suffice and Lord Hobart thinks that the Inspector wants a share of the booty. This is the worst mistake they could make and Hastymite knows it. He instantly tries to calm things down but it is too late. The Inspector realises what a fool he has been and the haunted memories of the murder of the young woman are too great. The Inspector tells the men he will meet them at Blackfriars stairs at four o'clock in the morning. He opens the watch with the eagle crest on it and Lord Hobart states the Inspector has obviously helped himself to the goods already.
The Inspector leaves and Barnacle is waiting for him outside with the bag. He takes the bag and gives Barnacle back his watch locket. He tells Barnacle that Tom Gosling must not leave his mooring tonight under any circumstances. He shout at Barnacle and tells him to run away quickly. At the appointed hour, Hastymite and Hobart arrive at Blackfriars. They rudely ask for the funds but the Inspector asks them to go onto the boat to retrieve them, the same boat he used to dispose of Vassilova's body. He rows them out a little into the river whilst Hobart clutches the bag of money. Out in the middle of the river, Lord Hobart attempts to open the bag but cannot and so Hastymite takes over and as he opens the bag, it explodes killing all three of them.
Later, the grave of Madame Vassilova is visited by everyone including Lord Stirling as they reflect on what happened. Tom Gosling takes the locket and asks Lord Stirling if Barnacle can keep it. The Colonel says he can but he must keep it safe but Barnacle wants to use it to buy the Lady barge. Lord Stirling consults with Joseph and offers him two hundred pounds for the locket. Barnacle and Tom are overjoyed with the offer. The next day they go to purchase the boat and Tom invites Barnacle to become part of the family with Clara and Miranda.
And as with all the other little gems of television, so ends a truly wonderful piece of drama, beautifully acted and filmed with a good plot and a happy ending - what more could you ask for?
As usual, comments, thoughts, memories, or if you were involved in this drama, please contact me at the usual address.