Read A Dangerous Mourning Online

Authors: Anne Perry

Tags: #Police, #London (England), #Political, #Fiction, #Literary, #Crime & mystery, #Crime & Thriller, #Police - England, #Historical Fiction, #Traditional British, #Mystery, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Police Procedural, #Detective and Mystery Stories, #Inspector (Fictitious character), #Monk, #Historical, #english, #Mystery & Detective - Traditional British, #Detective, #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction - Mystery, #General, #Suspense, #William (Fictitious character)

A Dangerous Mourning

A

Dangerous Mourning

 

Anne Perry

Book 2

William Monk series

To John and Mary MacKenzie, and my friends in Alness, for making me welcome.

 

Chapter 1

 

“Good morning, Monk," Runcorn said with satisfaction spreading over his strong, narrow features. His wing collar was a trifle askew and apparently pinched him now and again. "Go over to Queen Anne Street. Sir Basil Moidore." He said the name as though it were long familiar to him, and watched Monk's face to see if he registered ignorance. He saw nothing, and continued rather more waspishly. "Sir Basil's widowed daughter, Octavia Haslett, was found stabbed to death. Looks like a burglar was rifling her jewelry and she woke and caught him." His smile tightened. "You're supposed to be the best detective we've got—go and see if you can do better with this than you did with the Grey case!"

Monk knew precisely what he meant. Don't upset the family; they are quality, and we are very definitely not. Be properly respectful, not only in what you say, how you stand, or whether you meet their eyes, but more importantly in what you discover.

Since he had no choice, Monk accepted with a look of bland unconcern, as if he had not understood the implications.

"Yes sir. What number in Queen Anne Street?"

"Number Ten. Take Evan with you. I daresay by the time you get there, there'll be some medical opinion as to the time of her death and kind of weapon used. Well, don't stand there, man! Get on with it!"

Monk turned on his heel without allowing time for Runcorn to add any more, and strode out, saying "Yes sir" almost under his breath. He closed the door with a sharpness very close to a slam.

Evan was coming up the stairs towards him, his sensitive, mobile face expectant.

"Murder in Queen Anne Street." Monk's irritation eased away. He liked Evan more than anyone else he could remember, and since his memory extended only as far back as the morning he had woken in the hospital four months ago, mistaking it at first for the poorhouse, that friendship was unusually precious to him. He also trusted Evan, one of only two people who knew the utter blank of his life. The other person, Hester Latterly, he could hardly think of as a friend. She was a brave, intelligent, opinionated and profoundly irritating woman who had been of great assistance in the Grey case. Her father had been one of the victims, and she had returned from her nursing post in the Crimea, although the war was actually over at that point, in order to sustain her family in its grief. It was hardly likely Monk would meet her again, except perhaps when they both came to testify at the trial of Menard Grey, which suited Monk. He found her abrasive and not femininely pleasing, nothing like her sister-in-law, whose face still returned to his mind with such elusive sweetness.

Evan turned and fell into step behind him as they went down the stairs, through the duty room and out into the street. It was late November and a bright, blustery day. The wind caught at the wide skirts of the women, and a man ducked sideways and held on to his top hat with difficulty as a carriage bowled past him and he avoided the mud and ordure thrown up by its wheels. Evan hailed a hansom cab, a new invention nine years ago, and much more convenient than the old-fashioned coaches.

"Queen Anne Street," he ordered the driver, and as soon as he and Monk were seated the cab sped forward, across Tottenham Court Road, and east to Portland Place, Langham Place and then a dogleg into Chandos Street and Queen Anne Street. On the journey Monk told Evan what Runcorn had said.

"Who is Sir Basil Moidore?" Evan asked innocently.

"No idea," Monk admitted. "He didn't tell me." He grunted. "Either he doesn't know himself or he's leaving us to find out, probably by making a mistake."

Evan smiled. He was quite aware of the ill feeling between Monk and his superior, and of most of the reasons behind it. Monk was not easy to work with; he was opinionated, ambitious, intuitive, quick-tongued and acerbic of wit. On the other hand, he cared passionately about real injustice, as he saw it, and minded little whom he offended in order to set it right. He tolerated fools ungraciously, and fools, in his view, included Runcorn, an opinion of which he had made little secret in the past.

Runcorn was also ambitious, but his goals were different; he wanted social acceptability, praise from his superiors, and above all safety. His few victories over Monk were sweet to him, and to be savored.

They were in Queen Anne Street, elegant and discreet houses with gracious facades, high windows and imposing entrances. They alighted, Evan paid the cabby, and they presented themselves at the servants' door of Number 10. It rankled to go climbing down the areaway steps rather than up and in through the front portico, but it was far less humiliating than going to the front and being turned away by a liveried footman, looking down his nose, and dispatched to the back to ask again.

"Yes?" the bootboy said soberly, his face pasty white and his apron crooked.

"Inspector Monk and Sergeant Evan, to see Lord Moi-dore," Monk replied quietly. Whatever his feeling for Runcorn, or his general intolerance of fools, he had a deep pity for bereavement and the confusion and shock of sudden death.

"Oh—" The bootboy looked startled, as if their presence had turned a nightmare into truth. "Oh—yes. Yer'd better come in." He pulled the door wide and stepped back, turning into the kitchen to call for help, his voice plaintive and desperate. "Mr. Phillips! Mr. Phillips—the p'lice is 'ere!"

The butler appeared from the far end of the huge kitchen. He was lean and a trifle stooped, but he had the autocratic face of a man used to command—and receiving obedience without question. He regarded Monk with both anxiety and distaste, and some surprise at Monk's well-cut suit, carefully laundered shirt, and polished, fine leather boots. Monk's appearance did not coincide with his idea of a policeman's social position, which was beneath that of a peddler or a costermonger. Then he looked at Evan, with his long, curved nose and imaginative eyes and mouth, and felt no better. It made him uncomfortable when people did not fit into their prescribed niches in the order of things. It was confusing.

"Sir Basil will see you in the library," he said stiffly. "If you will come this way.'' And without waiting to see if they did, he walked very uprightly out of the kitchen, ignoring the cook seated in a wooden rocking chair. They continued into the passageway beyond, past the cellar door, his own pantry, the still room, the outer door to the laundry, the housekeeper's sitting room, and then through the green baize door into the main house.

The hall floor was wood parquet, scattered with magnificent Persian carpets, and the walls were half paneled and hung with excellent landscapes. Monk had a flicker of memory from some distant time, perhaps a burglary detail, and the word
Flemish
came to mind. There was still so much that was closed in that part of him before the accident, and only flashes came back, like movement caught out of the corner of the eye, when one turns just too late to see.

But now he must follow the butler, and train all his attention on learning the facts of this case. He must succeed, and without allowing anyone else to realize how much he was stumbling, guessing, piecing together from fragments out of what they thought was his store of knowledge. They must not guess he was working with the underworld connections any good detective has. His reputation was high; people expected brilliance from him. He could see that in their eyes, hear it in their words, the casual praise given as if they were merely remarking the obvious. He also knew he had made too many enemies to afford mistakes. He heard it between the words and in the inflections of a comment, the barb and then the nervousness, the look away. Only gradually was he discovering what he had done in the years before to earn their fear, their envy or their dislike. A piece at a time he found evidence of his own extraordinary skill, the instinct, the relentless pursuit of truth, the long hours, the driving ambition, the intolerance of laziness, weakness in others, failure in himself. And of course, in spite of all his disadvantages since the accident, he had solved the extremely difficult Grey case.

They were at the library. Phillips opened the door and announced them, then stepped back to allow them in.

The room was traditional, lined with shelves. One large bay window let in the light, and green carpet and furnishings made it restful, almost gave an impression of a garden.

But there was no time now to examine it. Basil Moidore stood in the center of the floor. He was a tall man, loose boned, unathletic, but not yet running to fat, and he held himself very erect. He could never have been handsome; his features were too mobile, his mouth too large, the lines around it deeply etched and reflecting appetite and temper more than wit. His eyes were startlingly dark, not fine, but very penetrating and highly intelligent. His thick, straight hair was thickly peppered with gray.

Now he was both angry and extremely distressed. His skin was pale and he clenched and unclenched his hands nervously.

"Good morning, sir." Monk introduced himself and Evan. He hated speaking to the newly bereaved—and there was something peculiarly appalling about seeing one's child dead— but he was used to it. No loss of memory wiped out the familiarity of pain, and seeing it naked in others.

"Good morning, Inspector," Moidore said automatically. "I'm damned if I know what you can do, but I suppose you'd better try. Some ruffian broke in during the night and murdered my daughter. I don't know what else we can tell you."

"May we see the room where it happened, sir?" Monk asked quietly. "Has the doctor come yet?"

Sir Basil's heavy eyebrows rose in surprise. "Yes—but I don't know what damned good the man can do now."

"He can establish the time and manner of death, sir."

"She was stabbed some time during the night. It won't require a doctor to tell you that.'' Sir Basil drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. His gaze wandered around the room, unable to sustain any interest in Monk. The inspector and Evan were only functionaries incidental to the tragedy, and he was too shocked for his mind to concentrate on a single thought. Little things intruded, silly things; a picture crooked on the wall, the sun on the title of a book, the vase of late chrysanthemums on the small table. Monk saw it in his face and understood.

" One of the servants will show us." Monk excused himself and Evan and turned to leave.

"Oh. . .yes. And anything else you need," Basil acknowledged.

"I suppose you didn't hear anything in the night, sir?" Evan asked from the doorway.

Sir Basil frowned. "What? No, of course not, or I'd have mentioned it." And even before Evan turned away the man's attention had left them and was on the leaves wind whipped against the window.

In the hall, Phillips the butler was waiting for them. He led them silently up the wide, curved staircase to the landing, carpeted in reds and blues and set with several tables around the walls. It stretched to right and left fifty feet or more to oriel windows at either end. They were led to the left and stopped outside the third door.

"In there, sir, is Miss Octavia's room," Phillips said very quietly. "Ring if you require anything."

Monk opened the door and went in, Evan close behind him. The room had a high, ornately plastered ceiling with pendant chandeliers. The floral curtains were drawn to let in the light. There were three well-upholstered chairs, a dressing table with a three-mirror looking glass, and a large four-poster bed draped in the same pink-and-green floral print as the curtains. Across the bed lay the body of a young woman, wearing only an ivory silk nightgown, a dark crimson stain slashing down from the middle of her chest almost to her knees. Her arms were thrown wide and her heavy brown hair was loose over her shoulders.

Monk was surprised to see beside her a slender man of just average height whose clever face was now very grave and pinched in thought. The sun through the window caught his fair hair, thickly curled and sprinkled with white.

"Police?" he asked, looking Monk up and down. "Dr. Faverell," he said as introduction. "The duty constable called me when the footman called him—about eight o'clock."

"Monk," Monk replied. "And Sergeant Evan. What can you tell us?"

Evan shut the door behind them and moved closer to the bed, his young face twisted with pity.

"She died some time during the night," Faverell replied bleakly. "From the stiffness of the body I should say at least seven hours ago.'' He took his watch out of his pocket and glanced at it. "It's now ten past nine. That makes it well before, say, three a.m. at the very outside. One deep, rather ragged wound, very deep. Poor creature must have lost consciousness immediately and died within two or three minutes."

"Are you the family physician?" Monk asked.

"No. I live 'round the corner in Harley Street. Local constable knew my address."

Monk moved closer to the bed, and Faverell stepped aside for him. The inspector leaned over and looked at the body. Her face had a slightly surprised look, as if the reality of death had been unexpected, but even through the pallor there was a kind of loveliness left. The bones were broad across the brow and cheek, the eye sockets were large with delicately marked brows, the lips full. It was a face of deep emotion, and yet femininely soft, a woman he might have liked. There was something in the curve of her lips that reminded him for a moment of someone else, but he could not recall who.

His eyes moved down and saw under the torn fabric of her nightgown the scratches on her throat and shoulder with smears of blood on them. There was another long rent in the silk from hem to groin, although it was folded over, as if to preserve decency. He looked at her hands, lifting them gently, but her nails were perfect and there was no skin or blood under them. If she had fought, she had not marked her attacker.

He looked more carefully for bruises. There should be some purpling of the skin, even if she had died only a few moments after being hurt. He searched her arms first, the most natural place for injury in a struggle, but there was nothing. He could find no mark on the legs or body either.

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