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 (46 page)

Cyprian looked at his father, then at Evan, then at Rath-bone.

"But then what was the knife and the peignoir in Percival's

room?" he asked. "Papa is right. Whatever Octavia learned about Harry, it doesn't make any sense. The evidence was still there. That was Octavia's peignoir, with her blood on it, wrapped around the knife."

"It was Octavia's peignoir with blood on it," Rathbone agreed.”Wrapped around a knife from the kitchen—but it was not Octavia's blood. She was killed with the paper knife in the study, and when someone found her, they carried her upstairs and put her in her own room to make it seem as if she had been murdered." His fastidious face showed distress and contempt. "No doubt to save the shame of a suicide and the disgrace to the family and all it would cost socially and politically. Then they cleaned the knife and returned it to its place."

"But the kitchen knife," Cyprian repeated. "And the peignoir. It was hers. Rose identified it, and so did Mary, and more important, Minta saw her in it on the landing that night. And there is blood on it."

“The kitchen knife could have been taken any time,'' Rath-bone said patiendy. "The blood could have come from any piece of meat purchased in the course of ordering supplies for the table—a hare, a goose, a side of beef or mutton—"

"But the peignoir."

"That is die crux of the whole matter. You see, it was sent up from the laundry the day before, in perfect order, clean and without mark or tear—"

“Of course,'' Cyprian agreed angrily.”They wouldn't send it up in any other way. What are you talking about, man?"

"On the evening of her death"—Rathbone ignored the interruption, if anything he was even more polite—"Mrs. Has-lett retired to her room and changed for the night. Unfortunately the peignoir was torn, we shall probably never know how. She met her sister, Mrs. Kellard, on the landing, and said good-night to her, as you pointed out, and as we know from Mrs. Kellard herself—" He glanced at Araminta and saw her nod so slightly only die play of light on her glorious hair showed the movement at all.”And then she went to say goodnight to her mother. But Lady Moidore noticed the tear and offered to mend it for her—is that not so, ma'am?"

"Yes—yes it is." Beatrice's voice was intended to be low, but it was a hoarse whisper, painful in its grief.

"Octavia took it off and gave it to her mother to mend,"

Rathbone said softly, but every word was as distinct as a separate pebble Ming into iced water. "She went to bed without it—and she was without it when she went to her father's study in the middle of the night. Lady Moidore mended it, and it was returned to Octavia's room. It was from there that someone took it, knowing Octavia had worn it to bid them goodnight but not that she had left it in her mother's room—"

One by one, first Beatrice, then Cyprian, then the others, they turned to Araminta.

Araminta seemed frozen, her face haggard.

"Dear God in heaven. You let Percival hang for it," Cyprian said at last, his lips stiff, his body hunched as if he had been beaten.

Araminta said nothing; she was as pale as if she herself were dead.

"How did you get her upstairs?" Cyprian asked, his voice rising now as if anger could somehow release a fraction of the pain.

Araminta smiled a slow, ugly smile, a gesture of hate as well as hard, bitter hurt.

"I didn't—Papa did that. Sometimes I thought if it were discovered, I should say it was Myles, for what he did to me, and has done all the years we've been married. But no one would believe it.'' Her voice was laden with years of impotent contempt. "He hasn't the courage. And he wouldn't lie to protect the Moidores. Papa and I would do that—and Myles wouldn't protect us when it came to the end." She rose to her feet and turned to face Sir Basil. There was a thin trickle of blood running down her fingers from where her nails had gouged the skin of her palms.

"IVe loved you all my life, Papa—and you married me to a man who took me by force and used me like a whore." Her bitterness and pain were overwhelming. "You wouldn't let me leave him, because Moidores don't do things like that. It would tarnish the family name, and that's all you care about—power. The power of money—the power of reputation—the power of rank."

Sir Basil stood motionless and appalled, as if he had been struck physically.

"Well, I hid Octavia's suicide to protect the Moidores," Araminta went on, staring at him as if he were the only one

who could hear her. "And I helped you hang Percival for it. Well now that we're finished—a scandal—a mockery"—her voice shook on the edge of dreadful laughter—"a byword for murder and corruption—you'll come with me to the gallows for Percival. You're a Moidore, and you'll hang like one—with me!"

"I doubt it will come to that, Mrs. Kellard," Rathbone said, his voice wrung out with pity and disgust. "With a good lawyer you will probably spend the rest of your life in prison— for manslaughter, while distracted with grief—"

"I'd rather hang!" she spat out at him.

“I daresay,'' he agreed.”But the choice will not be yours.'' He swung around. "Nor yours, Sir Basil. Sergeant Evan, please do your duty.''

Obediently Evan stepped forward and placed the iron manacles on Araminta's thin white wrists. The constable from the doorway did the same to Basil.

Romola began to cry, deep sobs of self-pity and utter confusion.

Cyprian ignored her and went to his mother, quietly putting his arms around her and holding her as if he had been the parent and she the child.

"Don't worry, my dear; we shall take care of you," Septimus said clearly. "I think perhaps we shall eat here tonight and make do with a little hot soup. We may wish to retire early, but I think it will be better if we spend the evening together by the fire. We need each other's company. It is not a time to be alone.''

Hester smiled at him and walked over to the window and drew the curtain sufficiently to allow her to stand in the lighted alcove. She saw Monk outside in the snow, waiting, and raised her hand to him in a slight salute so that he would understand.

The front door opened and Evan and the constable led out Basil Moidore and his daughter for the last time.

 

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