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 (3 page)

Who else might have been out in the night around Queen Anne Street? A year ago he would have known where to find the footpads, the cracksmen, the lookouts, but now he had nothing but guesswork and plodding deduction, which would betray him to Runcorn, who was so obviously waiting for every chance to trap him. Enough mistakes, and Runcorn would work out the incredible, delicious truth, and find the excuses he had sought for years to fire Monk and feel safe at last; no more hard, ambitious lieutenant dangerously close on his heels.

Finding the doctor was not difficult, merely a matter of returning to Harley Street and calling at the houses along the south side until he came to the right one, and then asking.

"Indeed," he was told in some surprise when he was received somewhat coolly by the master of the house, looking tired and harassed. "Although what interest it can be to the police I cannot imagine."

"A young woman was murdered in Queen Anne Street last night," Monk replied. The evening paper would carry it and it would be common knowledge in an hour or two. "The doctor may have seen someone loitering."

"He would hardly know by sight the sort of person who murders young women in the street!"

“Not in the street, sir, in Sir Basil Moidore's house,'' Monk corrected, although the difference was immaterial. "It is a matter of learning the time, and perhaps which direction he was going, although you're right, that is of little help."

"I suppose you know your business," the man said doubtfully, too weary and engaged in his own concerns to care. "But servants keep some funny company these days. I'd look to someone she let in herself, some disreputable follower."

"The victim was Sir Basil's daughter, Mrs. Haslett," Monk said with bitter satisfaction.

"Good God! How appalling!" The man's expression changed instantly. In a single sentence the danger had moved from affecting someone distant, not part of his world, to being a close and alarming threat. The chill hand of violence had touched his own class and in so doing had become real. "This is dreadful!" The blood fled from his tired face and his voice cracked for an instant.”What are you doing about it? We need more police in the streets, more patrols! Where did the man come from? What is he doing here?"

Monk smiled sourly to see the alteration in him. If the victim was a servant, she had brought it upon herself by keeping loose company; but now it was a lady, then police patrols must be doubled and the criminal caught forthwith.

"Well?" the man demanded, seeing what to him was a sneer on Monk's face.

"As soon as we find him, we will discover what he was doing," Monk replied smoothly. "In the meantime, if you will give me your physician's name, I will question him to see if he observed anything as he came or went.''

The man wrote the name on a piece of paper and handed it to him.

"Thank you, sir. Good day."

But the doctor had seen nothing, being intent upon his own art, and could offer no help. He had not even noticed Miller on his beat. All he could do was confirm his own time of arrival and departure with an exactitude.

By mid-afternoon Monk was back in the police station, where Evan was waiting for him with the news that it would have been quite impossible for anyone at all to have passed by the west end of Queen Anne Street and not have been seen by several of the servants waiting for their masters outside the house where the party was being held. There had been a sufficient number of guests, including late arrivals and early departures, to fill the mews at the back with carriages and overflow into the street at the front.

"With that many footmen and coachmen around, would an extra person be noticed?" Monk queried.

"Yes." Evan had no doubts at all. "Apart from the fact that a lot of them know each other, they were all in livery. Anyone dressed differently would have been as obvious as a horse in a field of cows."

Monk smiled at Evan's rural imagery. Evan was the son of a country parson, and every now and again some memory or mannerism showed through. It was one of the many things Monk found pleasing in him.

"None of them?" he said doubtfully. He sat down behind his desk.

Evan shook his head. "Too much conversation going on, and a lot of horseplay, chatting to the maids, flirting, carriage lamps all over the place. If anyone had shinned up a drainpipe to go over the roofs he'd have been seen in a trice. And no one walked off up the road alone, they're sure of that."

Monk did not press it any further. He did not believe it was a chance burglary by some footman which had gone wrong. Footmen were chosen for their height and elegance, and were superbly dressed. They were not equipped to climb drainpipes and cling to the sides of buildings two and three floors up, balancing along ledges in the dark. That was a practiced art which one came dressed to indulge.

"Must have come the other way," he concluded. "From the Wimpole Street end, in between Miller's going down that way and coming back up Harley Street. What about the back, from Harley Mews?"

"No way over the roof, sir," Evan replied. "I had a good look there. And a pretty good chance of waking the Moidores' coachman and grooms who sleep over the stables. Not a good burglar who disturbs horses, either. No sir, much better chance coming in the front, the way the drainpipe is and the broken creeper, which seems to be the way he did come. He must have nipped between Miller's rounds, as you say. Easy enough to watch for him."

Monk hesitated. He loathed betraying his vulnerability, even though he knew Evan was perfectly aware of it, and if he had been tempted to let it slip to Runcorn, he would have done it weeks ago during the Grey case, when he was confused, frightened and at his wit's end, terrified of the apparitions his intelligence conjured out of the scraps of recollection which recurred like nightmare forms. Evan and Hester Latterly were the two people in the world he could trust absolutely. And Hester he would prefer not to think about. She was not an appealing woman. Again Imogen Latterly's face came sweet to his mind, eyes soft and frightened as she had been when she asked him for help, her voice low, her skirts rustling like leaves as she walked past him. But she was Hester's brother's wife, and might as well have been a princess for anything she could be to Monk.

"Shall I ask a few questions at the Grinning Rat?" Evan interrupted his thoughts. "If anyone tries to get rid of the necklace and earrings they'll turn up with a fence, but word of a murder gets out pretty quickly, especially one the police won't let rest. The regular cracksmen will want to be well out of this."

"Yes—" Monk grasped at it quickly. "I'll try the fences and pawnbrokers, you go to the Grinning Rat and see what you can pick up." He fished in his pocket and brought out his very handsome gold watch. He must have saved a long time for this particular vanity, but he could not remember either the going without or the exultancy of the purchase. Now his fingers played over its smooth surface, and he felt an emptiness that all its flavor and memory were gone for him. He opened it with a flick.

"It's a good time to do that. I'll see you here tomorrow morning."

Evan went home and changed his clothes before assaying on the journey to find his hard-won contacts on the fringes of the criminal underworld. His present rather respectable, trim-fitting coat and clean shirt might be taken for the garb of a confidence trickster, but far more likely the genuine clothes of a socially aspiring clerk or minor tradesman.

When he left his lodgings an hour after speaking to Monk,

he looked entirely different. His fair brown hair with its wide wave was pulled through with grease and a little dirt, his face was similarly marred, he wore an old shirt without a collar and a jacket that hung off his lean shoulders. He also had for the occasion a pair of boots he had salvaged from a beggar who had found better. They rubbed his feet, but an extra pair of socks made them adequate for walking in, and thus attired he set off for the Grinning Rat in Pudding Lane, and an evening of cider, eel pie and listening.

There was an enormous variety of public houses in London, from the large, highly respectable ones which catered banquets for the well-bred and well-financed; through the comfortable, less ostentatious ones which served as meeting and business places for all manner of professions from lawyers and medical students, actors and would-be politicians; down through those that were embryo music halls, gathering spots for reformers and agitators and pamphleteers, street corner philosophers and working men's movements; right down to those that were filled with gamblers, opportunists, drunkards and the fringes of the criminal world. The Grinning Rat belonged to the last order, which was why Evan had chosen it several years ago; and he was now, if not liked there, at least tolerated.

From outside in the street he could see the lights gleaming through the windows across the dirty pavement and the gutter. Half a dozen men and several women lounged around outside the doorway, all dressed in colors so dark and drab with wear they seemed only a variation of densities in the barred light filtering out. Even when someone opened the door in a gale of laughter and a man and woman staggered down the steps, arm in arm, nothing showed but browns and duns and a flicker of dull red. The man backed away, and a woman half sitting in the gutter shouted something lewd after them. They ignored her and disappeared up Pudding Lane towards East Cheap.

Evan ignored her likewise and went inside to the warmth and the babble and the smell of ale and sawdust and smoke. He jostled his way past a group of men playing dice and another boasting the merits of fighting dogs, a temperance believer crying his creed in vain, and an ex-pugilist, his battered face good-natured and bleary-eyed.

" 'Evening, Tom," he said pleasantly.

" 'Evenin'," the pugilist said benignly, knowing the face was familiar but unable to recall a name for it.

"Seen Willie Durkins?" Evan asked casually. He saw the man's nearly empty mug. "I'm having a pint of cider—can I get you one?"

Tom did not hesitate but nodded cheerfully and drank the last of his ale so his mug was suitably empty.

Evan took it, made his way to the bar and purchased two ciders, passing the time of evening with the bartender who fetched him his mug from among the many swinging on hooks above his head. Each regular customer had his own mug. Evan returned to where Tom was waiting hopefully and passed him his cider, and when Tom had drunk half of it, with a huge thirst, Evan began his unobtrusive inquiry.

"Seen Willie?" he said again.

"Not tonight, sir." Tom added the "sir" by way of acknowledging the pint. He still could not think of a name. "Wot was yer wantin”im fer? Mebbe I can 'elp?"

"Want to warn him," Evan lied, not watching Tom's face but looking down into his mug.

"Wotabaht?"

"Bad business up west," Evan answered. "Got to find somebody for it, and I know Willie." He looked up suddenly and smiled, a lovely dazzling gesture, full of innocence and good humor. "I don't want him put away—I'd miss him."

Tom gurgled his appreciation. He was not absolutely sure, but he rather thought this agreeable young fellow might be either a rozzer or someone who fed the rozzers judicious bits of information. He would not be above doing that himself, if he had any—for a reasonable consideration, of course. Nothing about ordinary thievery, which was a way of life, but about strangers on the patch, or nasty things that were likely to bring a lot of unwelcome police attention, like murders, or arson, or major forgery, which always upset important gents up in the City. It made things hard for the small business of local burglary, street robbery, petty forgery of money and legal letters or papers. It was difficult to fence stolen goods with too many police about, or sell illegal liquors. Small-time smuggling up the river suffered—and gambling, card sharping, petty fraud and confidence tricks connected with sport, bare knuckle pugilism, and of course prostitution. Had Evan asked about any of these Tom would have been affronted and told him so. The underworld conducted these types of business all the time, and no one expected to root them out.

But there were things one did not do. It was foolish, and very inconsiderate to those who had their living to make with as little disturbance as possible.

"Wot bad business is that, sir?"

"Murder," Evan replied seriously. "Very important man's daughter, stabbed in her own bedroom, by a burglar. Stupid—"

"I never 'eard." Tom was indignant. "Wen was that, then? Nobody said!"

"Last night," Evan answered, drinking more of his cider. Somewhere over to their left there was a roar of laughter and someone shouted the odds against a certain horse winning a race.

"I never 'eard," Tom repeated dolefully. "Wot 'e want ter go an' do that fer? Stupid, I calls it. W'y kill a lady? Knock 'er one, if yer 'ave ter, like if she wakes up and starts ter 'oiler. But it's a daft geezer wot makes enough row ter wake people anyway."

"And stabbing." Evan shook his head. "Why couldn't he hit her, as you said. Needn't have killed her. Now half the top police in the West End will be all over the place!" A total exaggeration, at least so far, but it served his purpose. "More cider?"

Again Tom indicated his reply by shoving his mug over wordlessly, and Evan rose to oblige.

"Willie wouldn't do anything like that," Tom said when Evan returned. " 'E in't stupid."

"If I thought he had I wouldn't want to warn him," Evan answered. "I'd let him swing."

"Yeah," Tom agreed gloomily. "But w'en, eh? Not before the crushers 'as bin all over the place, an' everybody's bin upset and business ruined for all sorts!"

"Exactly." Evan hid his face in his mug. "So where's Willie?"

This time Tom did not equivocate. "Mincing Lane," he said dourly. "If'n yer wait there an hour or so 'e'll come by the pie stand there some time ternight. An' I daresay if'n yer tells 'im abaht this 'e'll be grateful, like." He knew Evan, whoever he was, would want something in return. That was the way of life.

"Thank you." Evan left his mug half empty; Tom would be only too pleased to finish it for him.”I daresay I'll try that. G'night."

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