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 (10 page)

He went straight from the Old Bailey back to the police station and up to Runcorn's office to report his progress to date in the Queen Anne Street case.

Runcorn looked at Monk's extremely smart jacket and his eyes narrowed and a flick of temper twitched in his high, narrow cheeks.

"I've been waiting for you for two days," he said as soon as Monk was through the door. "I assume you are working hard, but I require to be informed of precisely what you have learned—if anything! Have you seen the newspapers? Sir Basil Moidore is an extremely influential man. You don't seem to realize who we are dealing with, and he has friends in very high circles—cabinet ministers, foreign ambassadors, even princes."

“He also has enemies within his own house,'' Monk replied with more flippancy than was wise, but he knew the case was going to become uglier and far more difficult than it was already. Runcorn would hate it. He was terrified of offending authority, or people he thought of as socially important, and the Home Office would press for a quick solution because the public was outraged. At the same time he would be sick with fear lest he offend Moidore. Monk would be caught in the middle, and Runcorn would be only too delighted, if the results at last gave him the opportunity, to crush Monk's pretensions and make his failure public.

Monk could see it all ahead, and it infuriated him that even foreknowledge could not help him escape.

"I am not amused by riddles," Runcorn snapped. "If you have discovered nothing and the case is too difficult for you, say so, and I shall put someone else on it."

Monk smiled, showing his teeth. "An excellent idea—sir," he answered. "Thank you."

"Don't be impertinent!" Runcorn was thoroughly out of countenance. It was the last response he had expected. "If you are giving me your resignation, do it properly, man, not with a casual word like this. Are you resigning?" For a brief moment hope gleamed in his round eyes.

"No sir." Monk could not keep the lift in his voice. The victory was only a single thrust; the whole battle was already lost. "I thought you were offering to replace me on the Moi-dorecase."

"No I am not. Why?" Runcorn's short, straight eyebrows rose. "Is it too much for your skills? You used to be the best detective on the force—at least that was what you told everyone!" His voice grated with sour satisfaction. "But you've certainly lost your sharpness since your accident. You didn't do badly with the Grey case, but it took you long enough. I expect they'll hang Grey." He looked at Monk with satisfaction. He was sharp enough to have read Monk's feelings correctly, his sympathy for Menard.

"No they won't," Monk retorted. "They brought in the verdict this afternoon. Deportation for twenty-five years." He smiled, letting his triumph show. "He could make quite a decent life for himself in Australia.''

"If he doesn't die of fever," Runcorn said spitefully. "Or get killed in a riot, or starve."

"That could happen in London." Monk kept his face expressionless.

"Well, don't stand there like a fool." Runcorn sat down behind his desk. "Why are you afraid of the Moidore case? You think it is beyond your ability?"

"It was someone in the house," Monk answered.

"Of course it was someone in the house." Runcorn glared at him. "What's the matter with you, Monk? Have you lost your wits? She was killed in the bedroom—someone broke in. No one suggested she was dragged out into the street."

Monk took malicious pleasure in disabusing him.

"They were suggesting a burglar broke in," he said, framing each word carefully and precisely, as if to someone slow of understanding. He leaned a little forward.”I am saying that no one broke in and whoever murdered Sir Basil's daughter, he—or she—was in the house already—and is still in the house. Social tact supposes one of the servants; common sense says it is far more probably one of the family.''

Runcorn stared at him aghast, the blood draining from his

long face as the full implication came home to him. He saw the satisfaction in Monk's eyes.

"Preposterous," he said with a dry throat, the sound robbed of its force by his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth. "What's the matter with you, Monk? Do you have some personal hatred against the aristocracy that you keep on accusing them of such monstrosity? Wasn't the Grey case enough for you? Have you finally taken leave of your senses?"

"The evidence is incontrovertible." Monk's pleasure was only in seeing the horror in Runcorn. The inspector would immeasurably rather have looked for an intruder turned violent, acutely difficult as it would be to trace such a one in the labyrinths of petty crime and poverty in the rookeries, as the worst slum tenements were known, whole areas where the police dared not intrude, still less maintain any rule of law. Even so it would be less fraught with personal danger than accusing, even by implication, a member of a family like the Moidores.

Runcom opened his mouth, then closed it again.

"Yes sir?" Monk prompted, his eyes wide.

A succession of emotions chased each other over Runcorn's face: terror of the political repercussions if Monk offended people, behaved clumsily, could not back up with proof every single allegation he made; and then the double-edged hope that Monk might precipitate some disaster great enough to ruin him, and rid Runcorn of his footsteps forever at his heels.

"Get out," Runcorn said between his teeth. "And God help you if you make a mistake in this. You can be certain I shan't!"

"I never imagined you would—
sir."
And Monk stood at attention for a second—in mockery, not respect—then turned for the door.

He despaired Runcorn, and it was not until he was almost back to his rooms in Grafton Street that it occurred to him to wonder what Runcorn had been like when they first met, before Monk had threatened him with his ambition, his greater agility of mind, his quick, cruel wit. It was an unpleasant thought, and it took the warmth out of his feeling of superiority. He had almost certainly contributed to what the man had become. That Runcorn had always been weak, vain, less able, was a thin excuse, and any honesty at all evaporated it. The

more flawed a man was, the shoddier it was to take advantage of his inadequacies to destroy him. If the strong were irresponsible and self-serving, what could the weak hope for?

Monk went to bed early and lay awake staring at the ceiling, disgusted with himself.

* * * * *

The funeral of Octavia Haslett was attended by half the aristocracy in London. The carriages stretched up and down Langham Place, stopping the normal traffic, black horses whenever possible, black plumes tossing, coachmen and footmen in livery, black crepe fluttering, harnesses polished like mirrors, but not a single piece that jingled or made a sound. An ambitious person might have recognized the crests of many noble families, not only of Britain but of France and the states of Germany as well. The mourners wore black, immaculate, devastatingly fashionable, enormous skirts hooped and petti-coated, ribboned bonnets, gleaming top hats and polished boots.

Everything was done in silence, muffled hooves, well-oiled heels, whispering voices. The few passersby slowed down and bowed their heads in respect.

From his position like a waiting servant on the steps of All Saints Church, Monk saw the family arrive, first Sir Basil Moidore with his remaining daughter, Araminta, not even a black veil able to hide the blazing color of her hair or the whiteness of her face. They climbed the steps together, she holding his arm, although she seemed to support him as much as he her.

Next came Beatrice Moidore, very definitely upheld by Cyprian. She walked uprightly, but was so heavily veiled no expression was visible, but her back and shoulders were stiff and twice she stumbled and he helped her gently, speaking with his head close to hers.

Some distance behind, having come in a separate carriage, Myles Kellard and Romola Moidore came side by side, but not seeming to offer each other anything more than a formal accompaniment. Romola moved as if she was tired; her step was heavy and her shoulders a little bowed. She too wore a veil so her face was invisible. A few feet to her right Myles Kellard looked bleak, or perhaps it was boredom. He climbed the steps slowly, almost absently, and only when they reached the top did he offer her a hand at her elbow, more as a courtesy than a support.

Lastly came Fenella Sandeman in overdramatic black, a hat with too much decoration on it for a funeral, but undoubtedly handsome. Her waist was nipped in so she looked fragile, at a few yards' distance giving an impression of girlishness, then as she came closer one saw the too-dark hair and the faint withering of the skin. Monk did not know whether to pity her ridiculousness or admire her bravado.

Close behind her, and murmuring to her every now and again, was Septimus Thirsk. The hard gray daylight showed the weariness in his face and his sense of having been beaten, finding his moments of happiness in very small victories, the great ones having long ago been abandoned.

Monk did not go inside the church yet, but waited while the reverent, the grieving and the envious made their way past him. He overheard snatches of conversation, expressions of pity, but far more of outrage. What was the world coming to? Where was the much vaunted new Metropolitan Police Force while all this was going on? What was the purpose in paying to have them if people like the Moidores could be murdered in their own beds? One must speak to the Home Secretary and demand something be done!

Monk could imagine die outrage, the fear and the excuses that would take place over the next days or weeks. Whitehall would be spurred by complaints. Explanations would be offered, polite refusals given, and then when their lordships had left, Runcorn would be sent for and reports requested with icy disfavor hiding a hot panic.

And Runcorn would break out in a sweat of humiliation and anxiety. He hated failure and had no idea how to stand his ground. And he in turn would pass on his fears, disguised as official anger, to Monk.

Basil Moidore would be at the beginning of the chain—and at the end, when Monk returned to his house to tear apart the comfort and safe beliefs of his family, all their assumptions about one another and the dead woman they were burying with such a fashionable funeral now.

A newsboy strolled past as Monk turned to go inside.

" 'Orrible murder!" the boy shouted out, regardless of

standing beside the church steps. "Police baffled! Read all about it!"

The service was very formal, sonorous voices intoning all the well-known words, organ music swelling somberly, everything jewel colors of stained glass, gray masses of stone, light on a hundred textures of black, the shuffle of feet and rustle of fabric. Someone sniffed. Footsteps were loud as ushers moved down the aisles. Boots squeaked.

Monk waited at the back, and as they left to go after the coffin to the family vault he followed as closely as he dared.

During the interment he stood behind them, next to a large man with a bald head, his few strands of hair fluttering in the sharpening November wind.

Beatrice Moidore was immediately in front of him, close to her husband now.

"Did you see that policeman here?" she asked him very quietly. "Standing at the back behind the Lewises."

"Of course," he replied. "Thank God at least he is discreet and he looks like a mourner."

"His suit is beautifully cut," she said with a lift of surprise in her voice. "They must pay them more than I thought. He almost looks like a gentleman."

"He does not," Basil said sharply. "Don't be ridiculous, Beatrice."

"He'll be back, you know." She ignored his criticism.

"Of course he'll be back," he said between his teeth. "He'fl be back every day until he gives up—or discovers who it was.''

"Why did you say 'give up' first?" she asked. "Don't you think he will find out?"

"IVe no idea."

"Basil?"

"What?"

"What will we do if he doesn't?"

His voice was resigned. "Nothing. There is nothing to do."

"I don't think I can live the rest of my life not knowing."

He lifted his shoulders fractionally. "You will have to, my dear. There will be no alternative. Many cases are unsolved. We shall have to remember her as she was, grieve for her, and then continue our lives."

"Are you being willfully deaf to me, Basil?" Her voice shook only at the last word.

"I have heard every word you said, Beatrice—and replied to it," he said impatiently. Both of them remained looking ahead all the time, as if their full attention were on the interment. Opposite them Fenella was leaning heavily on Septimus. He propped her up automatically, his mind obviously elsewhere. From the look of sadness not only in his face but in the whole attitude of his body, he was thinking of Octavia.

“It was not an intruder,'' Beatrice went on with quiet anger. "Every day we shall look 'round at faces, listen to inflections of voices and hear double meanings in everything that is said, and wonder if it was that person, or if not, if they know who it was."

"You are being hysterical," Basil snapped, his voice hard in spite of its very quietness. "If it will help you to keep control of yourself, I'll dismiss all the servants and we'll hire a new staff. Now for God's sake pay attention to the service!"

"Dismiss the servants." Her words were strangled in her throat. "Oh, Basil! How will that help?"

He stood still, his body rigid under the black broadcloth, his shoulders high.

"Are you saying you think it was one of the family?" he said at last, all expression ironed out of his voice.

She lifted her head a little higher. "Wasn't it?"

"Do you know something, Beatrice?"

"Only what we all know—and what common sense tells me." Unconsciously she turned her head a fraction towards Myles Kellard on the far side of the crypt.

Beside him Araminta was staring back at her mother. She could not possibly have heard anything of what had passed between her parents, but her hands tightened in front of her, holding a small handkerchief and tearing it apart.

The interment was over. The vicar intoned the last amen, and the company turned to depart. Cyprian and his wife, Araminta with several feet between herself and her husband, Septimus militarily upright and Fenella staggering a trifle, lastly Sir Basil and Lady Moidore side by side.

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