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 (2 page)

"She's been moved," he said after a few moments, seeing the pattern of the stains to the end of her garments, and only smears on the sheets beneath her where there should have been a deep pool. "Did you move her?"

"No." Faverell shook his head. "I only opened the curtain." He looked around the floor. There were dark roses on the carpet. "There." He pointed. "That might be blood, and there's a tear on that chair. I suppose the poor woman put up aright."

Monk looked around also. Several things on the dressing table were crooked, but it was hard to tell what would have been the natural design. However a cut glass dish was broken, and there were dried rose leaves scattered over the carpet underneath it. He had not noticed them before in the pattern of the flowers woven in.

Evan walked towards the window.

"It's unlatched," he said, moving it experimentally.

“I closed it,'' the doctor put in. "It was open when I came, and damned cold. Took it into account for the rigor, though, so don't bother to ask me. Maid said it was open when she came with Mrs. Haslett's morning tray, but she didn't sleep with it open normally. I asked that too."

"Thank you," Monk said dryly.

Evan pushed the window all the way up and looked outside.

"There's creeper of some sort here, sir; and it's broken in several places where it looks as if someone put his weight on it, some pieces crushed and leaves gone." He leaned out a little farther. "And there's a good ledge goes along as far as the drainpipe down. An agile man could climb it without too much difficulty."

Monk went over and stood beside him. "Wonder why not the next room?" he said aloud. "That's closer to the drainpipe, easier, and less chance of being seen."

"Maybe it's a man's room?" Evan suggested. "No jewelry—or at least not much—a few silver-backed brushes, maybe, and studs, but nothing like a woman's."

Monk was annoyed with himself for not having thought of the same thing. He pulled his head back in and turned to the doctor.

"Is there anything else you can tell us?"

"Not a thing, sorry." He looked harassed and unhappy. "I'll write it out for you, if you want. But now I've got live patients to see. Must be going. Good day to you."

"Good day." Monk came back to the landing door with him. "Evan, go and see the maid that found her, and get her ladies' maid and go over the room to see if anything's missing, jewelry in particular. We can try the pawnbrokers and fences. I'm going to speak to some of the family who sleep on this floor."

* * * * *

The next room turned out to be that of Cyprian Moidore, the dead woman's elder brother, and Monk saw him in the morning room. It was overfurnished, but agreeably warm;

presumably the downstairs maids had cleaned the grate, sanded and swept the carpets and lit the fires long before quarter to eight, when the upstairs maids had gone to waken the family.

Cyprian Moidore resembled his father in build and stance. His features were similar—the short, powerful nose, the broad mouth with the extraordinary mobility which might so easily become loose in a weaker man. His eyes were softer and his hair still dark.

Now he looked profoundly shaken.

"Good morning, sir," Monk said as he came into the room and closed the door.

Cyprian did not reply.

"May I ask you, sir, is it correct that you occupy the bedroom next to Mrs. Haslett's?"

"Yes." Cyprian met his eyes squarely; there was no belligerence in them, only shock.

"What time did you retire, Mr. Moidore?"

Cyprian frowned. "About eleven, or a few minutes after. I didn't hear anything, if that is what you are going to ask."

“And were you in your room all night, sir?'' Monk tried to phrase it without being offensive, but it was impossible.

Cyprian smiled very faintly.

"I was last night. My wife's room is next to mine, the first as you leave the stair head.'' He put his hands into his pockets. “My son has the room opposite, and my daughters the one next to that. But I thought we had established that whoever it was broke into Octavia's room through the window."

"It looks most likely, sir," Monk agreed. "But it may not be the only room they tried. And of course it is possible they came in elsewhere and went
out
through her window. We know only that the creeper was broken. Was Mrs. Haslett a light sleeper?"

"No—" At first he was absolutely certain, then doubt flickered in his face. He took his hands out of his pockets. "At least I think not. But what difference does it make now? Isn't this really rather a waste of time?" He moved a step closer to the fire. "It is indisputable someone broke in and she discovered him, and instead of simply running, the wretch stabbed her." His face darkened. "You should be out there looking for him, not in here asking irrelevant questions! Perhaps she was awake anyway. People do sometimes waken in the night.''

Monk bit back the reply that rose instinctively.

"I was hoping to establish the time," he continued levelly. "It would help when we come to question the closest constable on the beat, and any other people who might have been around at that hour. And of course it would help when we catch anyone, if he could prove he was elsewhere."

"If he was elsewhere, then you wouldn't have the right person, would you!" Cyprian said acidly.

"If we didn't know the relevant time, sir, we might think we had!" Monk replied immediately. "I'm sure you don't want the wrong man hanged!”

Cyprian did not bother to answer.

* * * * *

The three women of the immediate family were waiting together in the withdrawing room, all close to the fire: Lady Moidore stiff-backed, white-faced on the sofa; her surviving daughter, Araminta, in one of the large chairs to her right, hollow-eyed as if she had not slept in days; and her daughter-in-law, Romola, standing behind her, her face reflecting horror and confusion.

"Good morning, ma'am." Monk inclined his head to Lady Moidore, then acknowledged the others.

None of them replied. Perhaps they did not consider it necessary to observe such niceties in the circumstances.

"I am deeply sorry to have to disturb you at such a tragic time," he said with difficulty. He hated having to express condolences to someone whose grief was so new and devastating. He was a stranger intruding into their home, and all he could offer were words, stilted and predictable. But to have said nothing would be grossly uncaring.

"I offer you my deepest sympathy, ma'am."

Lady Moidore moved her head very slightly in indication that she had heard him, but she did not speak.

He knew who the two younger women were because one of them shared the remarkable hair of her mother, a vivid shade of golden red which in the dark room seemed almost as alive as the flames of the fire. Cyprian's wife, on the other hand, was much darker, her eyes brown and her hair almost black. He turned to address her.

"Mrs. Moidore?"

"Yes?" She stared at him in alarm.

"Your bedroom window is between Mrs. Haslett's and the main drainpipe, which it seems the intruder climbed. Did you hear any unaccustomed sounds during the night, any disturbances at all?"

She looked very pale. Obviously the thought of the murderer passing her window had not occurred to her before. Her hands gripped the back of Araminta's chair.

"No—nothing. I do not customarily sleep well, but last night I did." She closed her eyes. "How fearful!"

Araminta was of a harder mettle. She sat rigid and slender, almost bony under the light fabric of her morning gown—no one had thought of changing into black yet. Her face was thin, wide-eyed, her mouth curiously asymmetrical. She would have been beautiful but for a certain sharpness, something brittle beneath the surface.

"We cannot help you, Inspector." She addressed him with candor, neither avoiding his eyes nor making any apology. "We saw Octavia before she retired last night, at about eleven o'clock, or a few minutes before. I saw her on the landing, then she went to my mother's room to wish her good-night, and then to her own room. We went to ours. My husband will tell you the same. We were awoken this morning by the maid, Annie, crying and calling out that something terrible had happened. I was the first to open the door after Annie. I saw straight away that Octavia was dead and we could not help her. I took Annie out and sent her to Mrs. Willis; she is the housekeeper. The poor child was looking very sick. Then I found my father, who was about to assemble the servants for morning prayers, and told him what had happened. He sent one of the footmen for the police. There really isn't anything more to say."

"Thank you, ma'am." Monk looked at Lady Moidore. She had the broad brow and short, strong nose her son had inherited, but a far more delicate face, and a sensitive, almost ascetic mouth. When she spoke, even drained by grief as she was, there was a beauty of vitality and imagination in her.

"I can add nothing, Inspector," she said very quietly. "My room is in the other wing of the house, and I was unaware of any tragedy or intrusion until my maid, Mary, woke me and then my son told me what had . . . happened."

"Thank you, my lady. I hope it will not be necessary to

disturb you again." He had not expected to learn anything; it was really only a formality that he asked, but to overtook it would have been careless. He excused himself and went to find Evan back in the servants' quarters.

However Evan had discovered nothing of moment either, except a list of the missing jewelry compiled by the ladies' maid: two rings, a necklace and a bracelet, and, oddly, a small silver vase.

A little before noon they left the Moidore house, now with its blinds drawn and black crepe on the door. Already, out of respect for die dead, the grooms were spreading straw on the roadway to deaden the sharp sound of horses' hooves.

"What now?" Evan asked as they stepped out into the footpath. "The bootboy said there was a party at the east end, on the corner of Chandos Street. One of the coachmen or footmen may have seen something." He raised his eyebrows hopefully.

"And there'll be a duty constable somewhere around," Monk added. "I'll find him, you take the party. Corner house, you said?"

"Yes sir—people called Bentley.''

"Report back to the station when youVe finished."

“Yes sir.'' And Evan turned on his heel and walked rapidly away, more gracefully than his lean, rather bony body would have led one to expect.

Monk took a hansom back to the station to find the home address of the constable who would have been patrolling the area during the night.

An hour later he was sitting in the small, chilly front parlor in a house off Euston Road, sipping a mug of tea opposite a sleepy, unshaven constable who was very ill at ease. It was some five minutes into the conversation before Monk began to realize that the man had known him before and that his anxiety was not based on any omission or failure of duty last night but on something that had occurred in their previous meeting, of which Monk had no memory at all.

He found himself searching the man's face, trying without success to bring any feature of it back to recollection, and twice he missed what was said.

"I'm sorry, Miller; what was that?" he apologized the second time.

Miller looked embarrassed, uncertain whether this was an

acknowledgment of inattention or some implied criticism that his statement was unbelievable.

"I said I passed by Queen Anne Street on the west side, down Wimpole Street an' up again along 'Arley Street, every twenty minutes last night, sir. I never missed, 'cause there wasn't no disturbances and I didn't 'ave ter stop fer any thin'.''

Monk frowned. “You didn't see anybody about? No one at all?"

"Oh I saw plenty o' people—but no one as there shouldn't 'a bin," Miller replied. "There was a big party up the other corner o' Chandos Street where it turns inter Cavendish Square. Coachmen and footmen an' all sorts 'angin' around till past three in the mornin', but they wasn't making no nuisance an' they certainly wasn't climbing up no drainpipes to get in no winders." He screwed up his face as if he were about to add something, then changed his mind.

"Yes?" Monk pressed.

But Miller would not be drawn. Again Monk wondered if it was because of their past association, and if Miller would have spoken for someone else. There was so much he did not know! Ignorance about police procedures, underworld connections, the vast store of knowledge a good detective kept. Not knowing was hampering him at every turn, making it necessary for him to work twice as hard in order to hide his vulnerability; but it did not end the deep fear caused by ignorance about himself. What manner of man was the self that stretched for years behind him, to that boy who had left Northumberland full of an ambition so consuming he had not written regularly to his only relative, his younger sister who had loved him so loyally in spite of his silence? He had found her letters in his rooms—sweet, gentle letters full of references to what should have been familiar.

Now he sat here in this small, neat house and tried to get answers from a man who was obviously frightened of him. Why? It was impossible to ask.

"Anyone else?" he said hopefully.

"Yes sir," Miller said straightaway, eager to please and beginning to master his nervousness. "There was a doctor paid a call near the corner of 'Arley Street and Queen Anne Street. I saw 'im leave, but I din't see 'im get there."

"Do you know his name?"

"No sir." Miller bristled, his body tightening again as if to defend himself. "But I saw 'im leave an' the front door was open an' the master o' the 'ouse was seein”im out. 'Alf the lights was on, and 'e weren't there uninvited!"

Monk considered apologizing for the unintended slight, then changed his mind. It would be more productive for Miller to be kept up to the mark.

"Do you remember which house?"

"About the third or fourth one along, on the south side of 'Arley Street, sir."

"Thank you. I'D ask them; they may have seen something. '' Then he wondered why he had offered an explanation; it was not necessary. He stood up and thanked Miller and left, walking back towards the main street where there would be cabs. He should have left this to Evan, who knew his underworld contacts, but it was too late now. He behaved from instinct and intelligence, forgetting how much of his memory was trapped in that shadowy world before the night his carriage had turned over, breaking his ribs and arm, and blotting out his identity and everything that bonded him to the past.

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