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 (8 page)

"Papa?"

"Did Tavie say anything to you about learning something

shocking or distressing recently?" Basil asked her. "Particularly the day before she died?''

Araminta sat down and considered very carefully for several moments, without looking at anyone else in the room. "No," she said at last. She regarded Monk with steady, amber-hazel eyes. "Nothing specific. But I was aware that she was extremely concerned about something which she learned that afternoon. I am sorry, I have no idea what it was. Do you believe that is why she was killed?"

Monk looked at her with more interest than he had for anyone else he had yet seen in this house. There was an almost mesmeric intensity in her, and yet she was utterly composed. Her thin hands were tight in her lap, but her gaze was unwavering and penetratingly intelligent. Monk had no idea what wounds tore at the fabric of her emotions beneath, and he did not imagine he would easily frame any questions, no matter how subtle, which would cause her to betray them.

"It is possible, Mrs. Kellard," he answered. "But if you can think of any other motive anyone might have to wish her harm, or fear her, please let me know. It is only a matter of deduction. There is no evidence as yet, except that no one broke in."

"From which you conclude that it was someone already here," she said very quietly. "Someone who lives in this house."

"It seems inescapable."

"I suppose it does."

"What kind of a woman was your sister, Mrs. Kellard? Was she inquisitive, interested in other people's problems? Was she observant? An astute judge of character?"

She smiled, a twisted gesture with half her face.

"Not more than most women, Mr. Monk. In fact I think rather less. If she did discover anything, it will have been by chance, not because she went seeking it. You ask what kind of woman she was. The kind who walks into events, whose emotions lead her and she follows without regard to the price. She was the kind of woman who lurches into disaster without having foreseen it or understanding it once she is there."

Monk looked across at Basil and saw the intense concentration in his face, his eyes fixed on Araminta. There was no reflection in his expression of any other emotion, no grief, no curiosity.

Monk turned to Cyprian. In him was the terrible hurt of memory and the knowledge of loss. His face was hard etched with pain, the realization of all the words that could not now be said, the affections unexpressed.

"Thank you, Mrs. Kellard," Monk said slowly. "If you think of anything else I should be obliged if you would tell me. How did you spend Monday?"

"At home in the morning," she answered. "I went calling in the afternoon, and I dined at home with the family. I spoke to Octavia several times during the evening, but I did not attach any particular importance to anything we said. It seemed totally trivial at the time.''

"Thank you, ma'am."

She rose to her feet, inclined her head very slightly, and walked out without looking behind her.

"Do you wish to see Mr. Kellard?" Basil asked with raised eyebrows, an air of contempt in his stance.

The very fact that Basil questioned it made Monk accept.

"If you please."

Basil's face tightened, but he did not argue. He summoned Phillips and dispatched him to fetch Myles Kellard.

"Octavia would not have confided in Myles," Cyprian said to Monk.

"Why not?" Monk asked.

A look of distaste flickered across Basil's face at the intrusive indelicacy of such a question, and he answered before Cyprian could. "Because they did not care for each other," he replied tersely. "They were civil, of course." His dark eyes regarded Monk quickly to make sure he understood that people of quality did not squabble like riffraff. "It seems most probable the poor girl spoke to no one about whatever she learned so disastrously, and we may never learn what it was."

"And whoever killed her will go unpunished," Cyprian challenged. "That is monstrous."

"Of course not!" Basil was furious; his eyes blazed and the deep lines in his face altered to become harsh. "Do you imagine I am going to live the rest of my life in this house with someone who murdered my daughter? What is the matter with you? Good God, don't you know me better than that?"

Cyprian looked as if he had been struck, and Monk felt a sharp, unexpected twinge of embarrassment. This was a scene he should not have witnessed, these were emotions that had nothing to do with Octavia Haslett's death; a viciousness between father and son stemming from no sudden act but years of resentment and failure to understand.

"If Monk—" Basil jerked his head towards the policeman—"is incapable of rinding him, whoever it is, I shall have the commissioner send someone else." He moved restlessly from the ornate mantel back to the center of the floor.”Where the hell is Myles? This morning at least, he should make himself available when I send for him!"

At that moment the door opened, without a prefacing knock, and Myles Kellard answered his summons. He was tall and slender, but in every other respect the opposite of the Moi-dores. His hair was brown with streaks in it and waved in a sweep back from his forehead. His face was long and narrow with an aristocratic nose and a sensuous, moody mouth. It was at once the face of a dreamer and a libertine.

Monk hesitated from politeness, and before he could speak Basil asked Myles the questions that Monk would have, but without explanation as to their purpose or the need for them. He was correct in his assumption; Myles could tell them nothing of use. He had risen late and gone out in the morning for luncheon, where he did not say, and spent the afternoon at the merchant bank where he was a director. He too had dined at home, but had not seen Octavia, except at table in the company of everyone else. He had noticed nothing remarkable.

When he had left Monk asked if there was anyone else, apart from Lady Moidore, to whom he should speak.

"Aunt Fenella and Uncle Septimus." Cyprian answered this time, cutting his father off. "We would be obliged if you could keep your questions to Mama as brief as possible. In feet it would be better if we could ask her and relay her answers to you, if they are of any relevance."

Basil looked at his son coldly, but whether for the suggestion or simply because Cyprian stole his prerogative by making it first, Monk did not know: he guessed the latter. At this point it was an easy concession to make; there would be time enough later to see Lady Moidore, when he had something better than routine and very general questions to ask her.

"Certainly," he allowed. "But perhaps your aunt and uncle? One sometimes confides in aunts especially, when no one else seems as appropriate."

Basil let out his breath in a sharp round of contempt and turned away towards the window.

"Not Aunt Fenella." Cyprian half sat on the back of one of the leather-upholstered chairs. "But she is very observant— and inquisitive. She may have noticed something the rest of us did not—if she hasn't forgotten it."

"Has she a short memory?" Monk inquired.

"Erratic," Cyprian replied with an oblique smile. He reached for the bell, but when the butler arrived it was Basil who instructed him to fetch first Mrs. Sandeman, and then Mr. Thirsk.

Fenella Sandeman bore an extraordinary resemblance to Basil. She had the same dark eyes and short, straight nose, her mouth was similarly wide and mobile, but her whole head was narrower and the lines were smoothed out. In her youth she must have had an exotic charm close to real beauty, now it was merely extraordinary. Monk did not need to ask the relationship; it was too plain to miss. She was of approximately the same age as Basil, perhaps nearer sixty than fifty, but she fought against time with every artifice imagination could conceive. Monk did not know enough of women to realize precisely what tricks they were, but he knew their presence. If he had ever understood them it was forgotten, with so much else. But he saw an artificiality in her face: the color of the skin was unnatural, the line of her brows harsh, her hair stiff and too dark.

She looked at Monk with great interest and refused Basil's invitation to sit down.

"How do you do," she said with a charming husky voice, just a fraction blurred at the edges.

"Fenella, he's a policeman, not a social acquaintance," Basil snapped. "He is investigating Octavia's death. It seems she was killed by someone here in the house, presumably one of the servants."

"One of the servants?" Fenella's black-painted eyebrows rose startlingly. "My dear, how appalling." She did not look in the least alarmed; in fact, if it were not absurd, Monk would have thought she found a kind of excitement in it.

Basil caught the inflection also.

"Remember your conduct!" he said tartly. "You are here because it begins to appear that Octavia may have discovered some secret, albeit accidentally, for which she was killed. Inspector Monk wonders if she may have confided such a thing to you. Did she?"

"Oh my goodness." She did not even glance at her brother, her eyes were intent on Monk. Had it not been socially ridiculous, and she at the very least twenty years his senior, he would have thought she considered flirting with him. "I shall have to think about it," she said softly. "I'm sure I cannot recall all that she said over the last few days. Poor child. Her life was full of tragedy. Losing her husband in the war, so soon after her marriage. How awful that she should be murdered over some wretched secret." She shivered and hunched her shoulders. "Whatever could it be?" Her eyes widened dramatically. "An illegitimate child, do you think? No—yes! It would lose a servant her position—but could it really have been a woman? Surely not?'' She came a step closer to Monk. "Anyway, none of our servants has had a child—we would all know about it." She made a sound deep in her throat, almost a giggle. "One can hardly keep such a thing secret, can one? A crime of passion—that's it. There has been a fateful passion, which no one else knows about, and Tavie stumbled on it by chance -and they killed her—poor child. How can we help, Inspector?"

"Please be careful, Mrs. Sandeman," Monk replied with a grim face. He was very uncertain how seriously to regard her, but he felt compelled to warn her against jeopardizing her own safety. "You may discover the secret yourself, or allow the person concerned to fear you may. You would be wise to observe in silence."

She took a step backward, drew in her breath, and her eyes grew even wider. For the first time he wondered, even though it was mid-morning, if she were entirely sober.

Basil must have had the same thought. He extended his hand perfunctorily and guided her to the door.

"Just think about it, Fenella, and if you remember anything, tell me, and I will call Mr. Monk. Now go and have breakfast, or write letters or something."

For an instant the glamour and excitement vanished from

her face and she looked at him with intense dislike; then as quickly it was gone, and she accepted his dismissal, closing the door behind her softly.

Basil looked at Monk, searching to judge his perception, but Monk left his face blank and polite.

The last person to come in had an equally apparent relationship to the family. He had the same wide blue eyes as Lady Moidore, and although his hair was now gray, his skin was fair with the pinkness that would have been natural with light auburn hair, and his features echoed the sensitivity and fine bones of hers. However he was obviously older than she, and the years had treated him harshly. His shoulders were stooped and there was an indelible weariness in him as of the flavor of many defeats, small perhaps, but sharp.

"Septimus Thirsk." He announced himself with a remnant of military precision, as if an old memory had unaccountably slipped through and prompted him. "What can I do for you, sir?" He ignored his brother-in-law, in whose house he apparently lived, and Cyprian, who had retreated to the window embrasure.

“Were you at home on Monday, the day before Mrs. Haslett was killed, sir?" Monk asked politely.

"I was out, sir, in the morning and for luncheon," Septimus answered, still standing almost to attention. "I spent the afternoon here, in my quarters most of the time. Dined out." A shadow of concern crossed his face. "Why does that interest you, sir? I neither saw nor heard any intruder, or I should have reported it."

"Mrs. Haslett was killed by someone already in the house, Uncle Septimus," Cyprian explained. "We thought Tavie might have said something to you which would give us some idea why. We're asking everyone."

"Said something?" Septimus blinked.

Basil's face darkened with irritation. "For heaven's sake, man, the question is simple enough! Did Octavia say or do anything that led you to suppose she had stumbled on a secret unpleasant enough to cause someone to fear her! It's hardly likely, but it is necessary to ask!"

"Yes she did!" Septimus said instantly, two spots of color burning on his pale cheeks. "When she came in in the late afternoon she said a whole world had been opened up to her

and it was quite hideous. She said she had one more thing to discover to prove it finally. I asked her what it was, but she refused to say."

Basil was stunned and Cyprian stood paralyzed on the spot.

"Where had she been, Mr. Thirsk?" Monk asked quietly. "You said she was coming in."

"I have no idea," Septimus replied with the grief replacing anger in his eyes. "I asked her, but she would not tell me, except that one day I would understand, better than anyone else. That was all she would say."

"Ask the coachman," Cyprian said immediately. "He'll know."

"She didn't go in our coaches." Septimus caught Basil's eye. "I mean your coaches," he corrected pointedly. "She walked in. I presume she either walked all the way or found a hansom."

Cyprian swore under his breath. Basil looked confused, and yet his shoulders eased under the black cloth of his jacket and he stared beyond them all out of the window. He spoke with his back to Monk.

“It seems, Inspector, as if the poor girl did hear something that day. It will be your task to discover what it was—and if you cannot do that, to deduce in some other way who it was who killed her. It is possible we may never discover why, and it hardly matters." He hesitated, for a moment more absorbed in his own thoughts. No one intruded.

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