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)
"If there is any further help the family can give you, we shall of course do so," he continued. "Now it is past midday and I can think of no purpose in which we can assist you at present. Either you or your juniors are free to question the servants at any time you wish, without disturbing the family. I shall instruct Phillips to that effect. Thank you for your courtesy so far. I trust it will continue. You may report any progress you make to me, orifl am not present, to my son. I would prefer you did not distress Lady Moidore."
"Yes, Sir Basil." He turned to Cyprian. "Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Moidore." Monk excused himself, and was shown out, not by the butler this time but by a very striking footman with bold eyes and a race whose handsomeness was spoiled only by a small, clever mouth.
In the hallway he saw Lady Moidore and had every intention of passing her with no more than a polite acknowledgment, but she came towards him, dismissing the footman with a wave of her hand, and he had no option but to stop and speak with her.
"Good day, Lady Moidore."
It was hard to tell how much the pallor of her face was natural, an accompaniment to her remarkable hair, but the wide eyes and the nervous movements were unmistakable.
"Good morning, Mr. Monk. My sister-in-law tells me you believe there was no intruder in the house. Is that so?"
He could save her nothing by lying. The news would be no easier coming from someone else, and the mere fact that he had lied would make it impossible for her to believe him in future. It would add another confusion to those already inevitable.
"Yes ma'am. I am sorry."
She stood motionless. He could not even see the slight motion of her breathing.
"Then it was one of us who killed Tavie," she said. She surprised him by not flinching from it or dressing it in evasive words. She was the only one in the family to make no pretense that it must have been one of the servants, and he admired her intensely for the courage that must have cost.
"Did you see Mrs. Haslett after she came in that afternoon, ma'am?" he asked more gently.
"It seems she learned something while she was out which distressed her, and according to Mr. Thirsk, she intended to pursue it and discover a final proof of the matter. Did she confide anything of it to you?"
"No." Her eyes were so wide she seemed to stare at something so close to her she could not blink. "No. She was very quiet during dinner, and there was some slight unpleasantness with—" She frowned. "With both Cyprian and her father. But I assumed she had one of her headaches again. People are occasionally unpleasant with each other, especially when they live in the same house day in and day out. She did come and say good-night to me immediately before she went to bed. Her dressing robe was torn. I offered to mend it for her—she was never very good with a needle—" Her voice broke for just a moment. Memory must have been unbearably sharp, and so
very close. Her child was dead. The loss was not yet wholly grasped. Life had only just slipped into the past.
He hated having to press her, but he had to know.
“What did she say to you, ma'am? Even a word may help."
"Nothing but 'good night,' " she said quietly. "She was very gentle, I remember that, very gentle indeed, and she kissed me. It was almost as if she knew we should not meet again." She put her hands up to her face, pushing the long, slender fingers till they held the skin tight across her cheekbones. He had the powerful impression it was not grief which shook her most but the realization that it was someone in her own family who had committed murder.
She was a remarkable woman, possessed of an honesty which he greatly respected. It cut his emotion, and his pride, that he was socially so inferior he could offer her no comfort at all, only a stiff courtesy that was devoid of any individual expression.
"You have my deep sympathy, ma'am," he said awkwardly. "I wish it were not necessary to pursue it—" He did not add the rest. She understood without tedious explanation.
She withdrew her hands.
"Of course," she said almost under her breath.
"Good day, ma'am."
"Good day, Mr. Monk. Percival, please see Mr. Monk to the door."
The footman reappeared, and to Monk's surprise he was shown out of the front door and down the steps into Queen Anne Street, feeling a mixture of pity, intellectual stimulation, and growing involvement which was familiar, and yet he could remember no individual occasion. He must have done this a hundred times before, begun with a crime, then learned experience by experience to know the people and their lives, their tragedies.
How many of them had marked him, touched him deeply enough to change anything inside him? Whom had he loved— or pitied? What had made him angry?
He had been shown out of the front door, so it was necessary to go around to the back areaway to find Evan, whom he had detailed to speak to the servants and to make at least some search for the knife. Since the murderer was still in the house, and had not left it that night, the weapon must be there too, unless he had disposed of it since. But there would be many knives in any ordinary kitchen of such a size, and several of them used for cutting meat. It would be a simple thing to have wiped it and replaced it. Even blood found in the joint of the handle would mean little.
He saw Evan coming up the steps. Perhaps word had reached him of Monk's departure, and he had left at the same time intentionally. Monk looked at Evan's face as he ran up, feet light, head high.
"I had P.C. Lawley help me. We went right through the house, especially servants' quarters, but didn't find the missing jewelry. Not that I really expected to."
Monk had not expected it either. He had never thought robbery the motive. The jewelry was probably flushed down the drain, and the silver vase merely mislaid. "What about the knife?"
"Kitchen full of knives," Evan said, falling into step beside him. "Wicked-looking things. Cook says there's nothing missing. If it was one of them, it was replaced. Couldn't find anything else. Do you think it was one of the servants? Why?'' He screwed up his face doubtfully. "A jealous ladies' maid? A footman with amorous notions?"
Monk snorted. "More likely a secret of some sort that she discovered." And he told Evan what he had learned so far.
* * * * *
Monk was at the Old Bailey by half past three, and it took him another half hour and the exertion of considerable bribery and veiled threats to get inside the courtroom where the trial of Menard Grey was winding to its conclusion. Rathbone was making his final speech. It was not an impassioned oration as Monk had expected—after all he could see that the man was an exhibitionist, vain, pedantic and above all an actor. Instead Rathbone spoke quite quietly, his words precise, his logic exact. He made no attempt to dazzle the jurors or to appeal to their emotions. Either he had given up or he had at last realized that there could be only one verdict and it was the judge to whom he must look for any compassion.
The victim had been a gentleman of high breeding and noble heritage. But so was Menard Grey. He had struggled long with his burden of knowledge and terrible, continuing injustice which would afflict more and more innocent people if he did not act.
Monk saw the jury's faces and knew they would ask for clemency. But would that be enough?
Without realizing it he was searching the crowd for Hester Latterly. She had said she would be there. He could never think of the Grey case, or any part of it, without remembering her. She should be here now to see its close.
Callandra Daviot was here, sitting in the first row behind the lawyers, next to her sister-in-law, Fabia Grey, the dowager Lady Shelbume. Lovel Grey was beside his mother at the farther end, pale, composed, not afraid to look at his brother in the dock. The tragedy seemed to have added a stature to him, a certainty of his own convictions he had lacked before. He was not more than a yard away from his mother, and yet the distance between them was a gulf which he never once looked at her to cross.
Fabia sat like stone, white, cold and relentless. The wound of disillusion had destroyed her. There was nothing left now but hatred. The delicate face which had once been beautiful was sharpened by the violence of her emotions, and the lines around her mouth were ugly, her chin pointed, her neck thin and ropey. If she had not destroyed so many others with her dreams, Monk would have pitied her, but as it was all he could feel was a chill of fear. She had lost the son she idolized to a shocking death. With him had gone all the excitement and glamour from her life. It was Joscelin who had made her laugh, flattered her, told her she was lovely and charming and gay. It was hard enough that he should have had to go to war in the Crimea and return wounded, but when he had been battered to death in his flat in Mecklenburg Square it was more than she could bear. Neither Lovel nor Menard could take his place, and she would not let them try—or accept from them such love or warmth as they would have given.
Monk's bitter solution of the case had crushed her totally, and it was something she would never forgive.
Rosamond, Lovel's wife, sat to her mother-in-law's left, composed and solitary.
The judge spoke his brief summation and the jury retired. The crowd remained in its seats, fearful lest they lose their places and miss the climax of the drama.
Monk wondered how often before he had attended the trial of someone he had arrested. The case notes he had searched so painstakingly to discover himself had stopped short with the unmasking of the criminal. They had shown him a careful man who left no detail to chance, an intuitive man who could leap from bare evidence to complicated structures of motive and opportunity, sometimes brilliantly, leaving others plodding behind, mystified. It also showed relentless ambition, a career built step by step, both by dedicated work and hard hours and by maneuvering others so he was in the place, at the time, when he could seize the advantage over less able colleagues. He made very few mistakes and forgave none in others. He had many admirers, but no one apart from Evan seemed to like him. And looking at the man who emerged from the pages he was not surprised. He did not like him himself.
Evan had met him only after the accident. The Grey case had been their first together.
He stood waiting for another fifteen minutes, thinking about the shreds he knew of himself, trying to picture the rest, and unsure whether he would find it familiar, easy to understand, therefore to forgive—or a nature he neither liked nor respected. Of the man before, or apart from his work, there was nothing, not a letter or memento that had meaning.
The jury was returning, their faces tense, eyes anxious. The buzz of voices ceased, there was no sound but the rustle of fabric and squeak of boots.
The judge asked if they had reached a verdict, and if it had been the verdict of them all.
They answered that they had. He asked the foreman what it was, and he replied: "Guilty—but we plead for clemency, my lord. Most sincerely, we ask that you give all the mercy allowed you, within the law—sir."
Monk found himself standing to attention, breathing very slowly as if the very sound of it in his ears might lose him some fraction of what was said. Beside him someone coughed, and he could have hit the man for his intrusion.
Was Hester here? Was she waiting as he was?
He looked at Menard Grey, who had risen to his feet and appeared, for all the crowd around him, as alone as a man could be. Every person in this entire paneled and vaulted hall was here to see judgment upon him, his life, or death. Beside him Rathbone, slimmer, and at least three inches shorter, put out a hand to steady him, or perhaps simply to let him feel a touch and know someone else was at least aware.
"Menard Grey," the judge said very slowly, his face creased with sadness and something that looked like both pity and frustration. "You have been found guilty of murder by this court. Indeed, you have wisely not pleaded otherwise. That is to your credit. Your counsel has made much of the provocation offered you, and the emotional distress you suffered at the hands of the victim. The court cannot regard that as an excuse. If every man who felt himself ill used were to resort to violence our civilization would end.''
There was a ripple of anger around the room, a letting out of breath in a soft hiss.
"However," the judge said sharply, "the fact that great wrongs were done, and you sought ways to prevent them, and could not find them within the law, and therefore committed this crime to prevent the continuation of these wrongs to other innocent persons, has been taken into account when considering sentence. You are a misguided man, but it is my judgment that you are not a wicked one. I sentence you to be transported to the land of Australia, where you will remain for a period of twenty-five years in Her Majesty's colony of Western Australia." He picked up his gavel to signal the end of the matter, but the sound of it was drowned in the cheering and stamping of feet and the scramble as the press charged to report the decision.
Monk did not find a chance to speak to Hester, but he did see her once, over the heads of a score of people. Her eyes were shining, and the tiredness suggested by her severe hairstyle, and the plain stuff of her dress, was wiped away by the glow of triumph—and utter relief. In that instant she was almost beautiful. Their eyes met and the moment was shared. Then she was carried along and he lost sight of her.
He also saw Fabia Grey as she was leaving, her body stiff, her face bleak and white with hatred. She walked alone, refusing to allow her daughter-in-law to help her, and her eldest and only remaining son chose to walk behind, head erect, a faint, tiny smile touching his mouth. Callandra Daviot would be with Rathbone. It was she, not Menard's own family, who had employed him, and she who would settle the account.
He did not see Rathbone, but he could imagine his triumph, and although it was what Monk also wanted most and had worked for, he found himself resenting Rathbone's success, the smugness he could so clearly envision in the lawyer's face and the gleam of another victory in his eyes.