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 (7 page)

When the prosecution suddenly changed his mind and gave up, she was permitted to remain in the courtroom, since she was no longer of importance, and she found room to sit and listen while Callandra testified. She too was first questioned by Rathbone and then, with more politeness than he had used before, by the counsel for the prosecution. He judged the jury rightly that they would not view with sympathy any attempt to bully or insult an army surgeon's widow—and a lady. Hester did not watch Callandra, she had no fear for her; she concentrated on the faces of the jurymen. She saw the emotions flicker and change: anger, pity, confusion, respect, contempt.

Next Monk was called and sworn. She had not noticed in the waiting room how well he was dressed. His jacket was of excellent cut, and only the best woolen broadcloth hung in quite that way. What vanity. How, on police pay, did he manage such a thing? Then she thought with a flicker of pity that probably he did not know himself—not now. Had he wondered? Had he perhaps been afraid of the vanity or the ruth-lessness the answer might reveal? How terrible it must be to look at the bare evidence of yourself, the completed acts, and know none of the reasons that made them human, explainable in terms of fear and hopes, things misunderstood, small sacrifices made, wounds compensated for—always to see only what resulted, never what was meant. This extravagant coat might be pure vanity, money grasped for—or it might be the mark of achievement after long years of saving and working, putting in extra duty when others were relaxing at home or laughing in some music hall or public house.

Rathbone began to question him, talking smoothly, knowing the words were powerful enough and emotion from him would heap the impact too high, too soon. He had called his witnesses in this order so he might build his story as it had happened, first the Crimea, then Hester's parents' death, then the crime. Detail by detail he drew from Monk the description of the flat in Mecklenburg Square, the marks of struggle and death, his own slow discovery piece by piece of the truth.

Most of the time Rathbone had his back to her, facing either Monk or the jury, but she found his voice compelling, every word as clear as a cut stone, insistent in the mind, unfolding an irresistible tragedy.

And she watched Monk and saw the respect and once or twice the momentary flicker of dislike cross his face as he answered. Rathbone was not treating him as a favored witness, rather as someone half an enemy. His phrases had a sharp turn to them, an element of antagonism. Only watching the jury did she understand why. They were utterly absorbed. Even a woman shrieking in the crowd and being revived by a neighbor did not break their attention. Monk's sympathy for Menard Grey appeared to be dragged from him reluctantly, although Hester knew it was acutely real. She could remember how Monk had looked at the time, the anger in him, the twisting pain of pity, and the helplessness to alter anything. It had been in that moment she had liked him with absolute completeness, an inner peace that shared, without reservation, and a knowledge that the communication was total.

When the court rose at the end of the afternoon, Hester went with the crowd that pushed and shoved on every side, onlookers rushing home in the jam of carts, wagons and carriages in the streets, newspaper writers hurrying to get the copy in before the presses started to roll for the first editions in the morning, running patterers to compose the next verse of their songs and pass the news along the streets.

She was outside on the steps in the sharp evening wind and the bright gas lamps looking for Callandra, from whom she had become separated, when she saw Monk. She hesitated, uncertain whether to speak to him or not. Hearing the evidence over again, recounting it herself, she had felt all the turmoil of emotions renewed, and her anger with him had been swept away.

But perhaps he still felt just as contemptuous of her? She

stood, unable to decide whether to commit herself and unwilling to leave.

He took the matter out of her hands by walking over, a slight pucker between his brows.

"Well, Miss Latterly, do you believe your friend Mr. Rathbone is equal to the task?"

She looked at his eyes and saw the anxiety in him. The sharp retort died away, the irrelevancies as to whether Rathbone was her friend or not. Sarcasm was only a defense against the fear that they would hang Menard Grey.

"I think so," she said quietly. "I was watching the jurors' faces while you were testifying. Of course I do not know what is yet to come, but up until now, I believe they were more deeply horrified by the injustices of what happened, and our helplessness to prevent it, than by the murder itself. If Mr. Rathbone can keep this mood until they go to consider their verdict, it may be favorable. At least—" She stopped, realizing that no matter what the jurors believed in blame, the fact remained undeniable. They could not return a verdict of not guilty, regardless of any provocation on earth. The weighing lay with the judge, not with them.

Monk had perceived it before her. The bleak understanding was in his eyes.

"Let us trust he is equally successful with his lordship," he said dryly. “Life in Coldbath Fields would be worse than the rope."

"Will you come again tomorrow?" she asked him.

"Yes—in the afternoon. The verdict will not be in till then. Will you?"

"Yes—" She thought what Pomeroy would have to say. "But I will not come until late either, if you really do not believe the verdict will come in early. I do not wish to ask for time from the infirmary without good reason."

"And will they consider your desire to hear the verdict to be a good reason?" he said dryly.

She pulled a small face, not quite a smile. "No. I shall not phrase my request in quite those terms."

"Is it what you wished—the infirmary?" Again he was as frank and direct as she recalled, and his understanding as comfortable.

"No—" She did not think of prevaricating. "It is full of incompetence, unnecessary suffering, ridiculous ways of doing things which could so easily be reorganized, if only they would give up their petty self-importances and think of the end and not the means." She warmed to the subject and his interest. "A great deal of the trouble lies with their whole belief of nursing and the nature of people who should work in it. They pay only six shillings a week, and some of that is given in small beer. Many of the nurses are drunk half the time. But now the hospital provides their food, which is better than their eating the patients' food, which they used to. You may imagine what type of men and women it attracts! Most of them can neither read nor write." She shrugged expressively. "They sleep just off the wards, there are far too few basins or towels for them, and nothing more than a little Conde's fluid and now and again soap to wash themselves— even their hands after cleaning up waste."

His smile became wider and thinner, but there was a gleam of sympathy in his eyes.

"And you?" she asked. "Are you still working for Mr. Runcorn?" She did not ask if he had remembered more about himself, that was too sensitive and she would not probe. The subject of Runcorn was raw enough.

"Yes. "He pulled a face.

"And with Sergeant Evan?" She found herself smiling.

"Yes, Evan too." He hesitated. He seemed about to add something when Oliver Rathbone came down the steps dressed for the street and without his wig and robes. He looked very trim and well pleased.

Monk's eyes narrowed, but he refused to comment.

"Do you think we may be hopeful, Mr. Rathbone?" Hester asked eagerly.

"Hopeful, Miss Latterly," he replied guardedly. "But still far from certain.''

“Don't forget it is the judge you are playing to, Rathbone,'' Monk said tartly, buttoning his jacket higher. "And not Miss Latterly, or the gallery—or even the jury. Your performance before them may be brilliant, but it is dressing and not substance." And before Rathbone could reply he bowed fractionally to Hester, turned on his heel, and strode off down the darkening street.

"A man somewhat lacking in charm," Rathbone said

sourly. "But I suppose his calling requires little enough. May I take you somewhere in my carriage, Miss Latterly?"

"I think charm is a very dubious quality," she said with deliberation. "The Grey case is surely the finest example of excessive charm we are likely ever to see!"

"I can well believe that you do not rate it highly, Miss Latterly," he retorted, his eyes perfectly steady but gleaming with laughter.

"Oh—" She longed to be equally barbed, as subtly rude, and could think of nothing whatsoever to say. She was completely unsure whether the amusement in him was at her, at himself, or at Monk—or even whether it contained unkindness or not. "No—" She fumbled for words. "No. I find it unworthy of trust, a spurious quality, all show and no substance, glitter without warmth. No thank you; I am returning with Lady Callandra—but it is most courteous of you to offer. Good day, Mr. Rathbone."

"Good day, Miss Latterly." He bowed, still smiling.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Sir Basil Moidore stared at Monk across the carpeted expanse of the morning room floor. His race was pale but there was no vacillation in it, no lack of composure, only amazement and disbelief.

"I beg your pardon?" he said coldly.

"No one broke into your house on Monday night, sir," Monk repeated. "The street was well observed all night long, at both ends—"

"By whom?" Moidore's dark eyebrows rose, making his eyes the more startlingly sharp.

Monk could feel his temper prickling already. He resented being disbelieved more than almost anything else. It suggested he was incompetent. He controlled his voice with considerable effort.

"By the policeman on the beat, Sir Basil, a householder who was up half the night with a sick wife, the doctor who visited him." He did not mention Chinese Paddy; he did not think Moidore would be inclined to take his evidence well. "And by a large number of liveried footmen and coachmen waiting on their employers to leave a party at the corner of Chandos Street."

"Then obviously the man came from the mews," Basil responded irritably.

"Your own groom and coachmen sleep above your stables, sir," Monk pointed out. "And anyone climbing over there would be highly unlikely to get across that roof without disturbing at least the horses. Then he would have to get right over the house roof and down the other side. Almost impossible to do, unless he was a mountaineer with ropes and climbing equipment, and—"

"There is no call to be sarcastic," Basil snapped. "I take your point. Then he must have come in the front some time between your policeman's patrols. There is no other answer. He certainly was not hiding in the house all evening! And neither did he leave after the servants were up."

Monk was forced to mention Chinese Paddy.

"I am sorry, but that is not so. We also found a housebreaker who was watching the Harley Street end all night, hoping to get a chance to break in farther along. He got no opportunity because there were people about who would have observed him if he had. But he was watching all night from eleven until four—which covers the relevant time. I am sorry.''

Sir Basil swung around from the table he had been lacing, his eyes black, his mouth drawn down in anger. "Then why in God's name haven't you arrested him? He must be the one! On his own admission he is a housebreaker. What more do you want?" He glared at Monk. "He broke in here and poor Octavia heard him—and he killed her. What is the matter with you, standing here like a fool?"

Monk felt his body tighten with fury, the more biting because it was impotent. He needed to succeed in his profession, and he would fail completely if he were as rude as he wished, and were thrown out. How Runcorn would love that! It would be not only professional disgrace but social as well.

"Because his story is true," he replied with a level, harsh voice. "Substantiated by Mr. Bentley, his doctor and a maid who has no interest in the matter and no idea what her testimony means." He did not meet Sir Basil's eyes because he dared not let him see the anger in them, and he hated the submission of it. "The housebreaker did not pass along the street," he went on. "He did not rob anyone, because he did not have the chance, and he can prove it. I wish it were so simple; we should be very pleased to solve the case as neatly— sir."

Basil leaned forward across the table.

"Then if no one broke in, and no one was concealed here, you have created an impossible situation—unless you are suggesting—" He stopped, the color drained out of his face and slowly a very real horror replaced the irritation and impatience. He stood stock-still. "Are you?" he said very quietly.

"Yes, Sir Basil," Monk answered him.

"That's—" Basil stopped. For several seconds he remained in absolute silence, his thoughts apparently inward, racing, ideas grasped and rejected. Finally he came to some realization he could not cast aside. "I see," he said at last. "I cannot think of any imaginable reason, but we must face the inevitable. It seems preposterous, and I still believe that you will find some flaw in your reasoning, or that your evidence is faulty. But until then we must proceed on your assumption." He frowned very slightly. "What do you require next? I assure you we have no violent quarrels or conflicts in the house and no one has behaved in any way out of their usual custom.'' He regarded Monk with something between dislike and a bitter humor. "And we do not have personal relationships with our servants, let alone of the sort which would occasion this." He put his hands in his pockets. "It is absurd—but I do not wish to obstruct you."

"I agree a quarrel seems unlikely." Monk measured his words, both to keep his own dignity and to show Basil there was some sense to the argument. "Especially in the middle of the night when all the household was in bed. But it is not impossible Mrs. Haslett was privy to some secret, albeit unintentionally, that someone feared she might expose—'' It was not only possible, it excluded her from all blame. He saw Basil's face lose some of its anxiety, and a flicker of hope appeared in his eyes. His shoulder eased as he breathed out and let his arms drop.

"Poor Octavia." He looked at one of the soft landscape paintings on the wall. "That does sound possible. I apologize. I spoke hastily. You had better pursue your inquiries. What do you wish to do first?"

Monk respected him for his ability to admit both haste and discourtesy. It was more than he had expected, and something he would have found hard himself. The measure of the man was larger than he thought.

"I would like to speak to the family first, sir. They may have observed something, or Mrs. Haslett may have confided in one of them."

"The family?" Basil's mouth twitched, but whether it was from fear or a dark, inward humor Monk could not even guess. “Very well." He reached for the bell pull and tugged it. When the butler appeared he sent him to bring Cyprian Moidore to the morning room.

Monk waited in silence until he came.

Cyprian closed the door behind him and looked at his father. Seeing them almost side by side the resemblance was striking: the same shape of head; the dark, almost black eyes; and the broad mouth with its extraordinary mobility. And yet the expressions were so different the whole bearing was altered. Basil was more aware of his own power and was quicker tempered, the flash of humor more deeply covered. Cyprian was less certain, as if his strength was untried and he feared it might not prove adequate. Was the softer side of him compassion, or simply caution because he was still vulnerable and he knew it?

"The police have discerned that no one broke in to kill Octavia," Basil explained briefly and without preamble. He did not watch his son's face; apparently he was not concerned how the news affected him, nor did he explain Monk's reasoning of possible motive. "The only solution left seems to be that it was someone already living here. Obviously not the family—therefore, we must presume, one of the servants. Inspector Monk wishes to speak to all of us to see what we observed—if indeed we observed anything."

Cyprian stared at his father, then swung around to look at Monk as if he had been some monster brought in from a foreign land.

"I am sorry, sir.'' Monk put in the apology Basil had omitted. "I am aware that it must be distressing, but if you could tell me what you did on Monday, and what you can recall of anything Mrs. Haslett may have said, especially if at any time she confided a concern to you, or some matter she may have discovered that could be seen as dangerous to anyone else."

Cyprian frowned, concentration coming slowly to his face as thought took over from astonishment. He turned his back on his father.

“You think Octavia was killed because she knew someone's secret about—" He shrugged. "What? What could one of our servants have done that—" He stopped. It was apparent from his eyes that his question was answered in his imagination and he preferred not to speak it. "Tavie said nothing to me. But then I was out most of the day. I wrote a few letters in the morning, then about eleven I went to my club in Piccadilly for luncheon and spent the afternoon with Lord Ainslie, talking about cattle, mostly. He has some stock, and I considered buying some. We keep a large estate in Hertfordshire."

Monk had a rapid impression that Cyprian was lying, not about the meeting but about the subject of it.

"Damned Owenite politician!" Basil said with a flash of temper. "Have us all living in communities like farm animals."

"Not at all!" Cyprian retorted. "His thoughts arc—"

"You were here at dinner," Basil overrode him curtly before he could form his argument. "Didn't you see Octavia then?"

"Only at table," Cyprian said with an edge to his voice. "And if you recall, Tavie barely spoke—to me, or to anyone else."

Basil turned from the fireplace and looked at Monk.

"My daughter was not always in the best of health. I think on that occasion she was feeling unwell. She certainly was extremely quiet and seemed in some distress." He put his hands back in his pockets. "I assumed at the time she had a headache, but looking back now, perhaps she was aware of some ugly secret and it consumed her thoughts. Although she can hardly have realized the danger it represented."

"I wish to God she had told someone," Cyprian said with sudden passion. There was no need to add all the tumult of feelings that lay behind it, the regret and the sense of having foiled. It lay heavy in his voice and in the strain in his features.

Before the elder Moidore replied there was a knock on the door.

"Come in!" he said, raising his head sharply, irked by the intrusion.

Monk wondered for a moment who the woman was, then as Cyprian's expression changed, he remembered meeting her in the withdrawing room the first morning: Romola Moidore. This time she looked less drained with shock; her skin had a bloom to it and her complexion was flawless. Her features were regular, her eyes wide and her hair thick. The only thing which prevented her from being a beauty was a suggestion of sulkiness about the mouth, a feeling that her good temper was not to be relied on. She looked at Monk with surprise. Obviously she did not remember him.

"InspectorMonk," Cyprian supplied. Then, whenherfece did not clear: "Of the police." He glanced at Monk, and for a moment there was a bright intelligence in his eyes. He was leaving Monk to make whatever impact he chose.

Basil immediately spoiled it by explaining.

“Whoever killed Octavia is someone who lives in this house. That means one of the servants." His eyes were on her face, his voice careful. "The only reason that makes any sense is if one of them has a secret so shameful they would rather commit murder than have it revealed. Either Octavia knew this secret or they believed she did."

Romola sat down sharply, the color fading from her cheeks, and she put her hand to her mouth, but her eyes did not leave Basil's face. Never once did she look to her husband.

Cyprian glared at his father, who looked back at him boldly—and with something that Monk thought might well be dislike. He wished he could remember his own father, but rack his memory as he might, nothing came back but a feint blur, an impression of size and the smell of salt and tobacco, and the touch of beard, and skin softer than he expected. Nothing returned of the man, his voice, his words, a face. Monk had no real idea, only a few sentences from his sister, and a smile as if there were something familiar and precious.

Romola was speaking, her voice scratchy with fear.

"Here in the house?" She looked at Monk, although she was speaking to Cyprian. "One of the servants?"

"There doesn't seem to be any other explanation," Cyprian replied. "Did Tavie say anything to you—think carefully— anything about any of the servants?"

"No," she said almost immediately. "This is terrible. The very thought of it makes me feel ill."

A shadow passed over Cyprian's face, and for a moment it seemed as if he were about to speak, but he was aware of his father's eyes on him.

“Did Octavia speak to you alone that day?'' Basil asked her without change of tone.

“No—no,'' she denied quickly. “I interviewed governesses

all morning. None of them seemed suitable. I don't know what I'm going to do."

"See some more!" Basil snapped. "If you pay a requisite salary you will find someone who will do."

She shot him a look of repressed dislike, guarded enough that to a casual eye it could have been anxiety.

"I was at home all day." She turned back to Monk, her hands still clenched. "I received friends in the afternoon, but Tavie went out. I have no idea where; she said nothing when she came in. In fact she passed by me in the hall as if she had not seen me there at all."

"Was she distressed?" Cyprian asked quickly. "Did she seem frightened, or upset about anything?"

Basil watched them, waiting.

"Yes," Romola said with a moment's thought. "Yes she did. I assumed she had had an unpleasant afternoon, perhaps friends who were disagreeable, but maybe it was more than that?"

"What did she say?" Cyprian pursued.

"Nothing. I told you, she barely seemed aware she had passed me. If you remember, she said very little at dinner, and we presumed she was not well."

They all looked at Monk, waiting for him to resolve some answer from the facts.

"Perhaps she confided in her sister?" he suggested.

"Unlikely," Basil said tersely. "But Minta is an observant woman." He turned to Romola. "Thank you, my dear. You may return to your tasks. Do not forget what I have counseled you. Perhaps you would be good enough to ask Araminta to join us here."

"Yes, Papa-in-law," she said obediently, and left without looking at Cyprian or Monk again.

Araminta Kellard was not a woman Monk could have forgotten as he had her sister-in-law. From her vivid fire-gold hair, her curiously asymmetrical features, to her slender, stiff body, she was unique. When she came into the room she looked first at her father, ignored Cyprian and faced Monk with guarded interest, then turned back to her father.

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