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A Dangerous Mourning: A William Monk Novel

By Joe Mason,2014-11-04 17:25
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No breath of scandal has ever touched the aristocratic Moidore familyuntil Sir Basil's beautiful widowed daughter is stabbed to death in her own bed, a shocking, incomprehensible tragedy. Inspector William Monk is ordered to investigate in a manner that will give the least possible pain to the influential family. But Monk, brilliant and ambitious, is handicapped by lingering traces of amnesia and by the craven ineptitude of his supervisor, who would like nothing better than to see Monk fail. With the help of nurse Hester Latterly, a progressive young woman who served with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, Monk gropes warily through the silence and shadows that obscure the case, knowing that with each step he comes closer to the appalling truth. Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2009/05/26

A

    Dangerous Mourning ? Anne Perry

     Book 2

     William Monk series

    To John and Mary MacKenzie, and my friends in Alness, for making me welcome.

    Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 ? ? ?

    ?

Chapter 1

    ?

    “Good morning, Monk," Runcorn said with satisfaction spreading over his strong, narrowfeatures. His wing collar was a trifle askew and apparently pinched him now and again. "Goover to Queen Anne Street. Sir Basil Moidore." He said the name as though it were longfamiliar to him, and watched Monk's face to see if he registered ignorance. He saw nothing,and continued rather more waspishly. "Sir Basil's widowed daughter, Octavia Haslett, was foundstabbed to death. Looks like a burglar was rifling her jewelry and she woke and caught him."His smile tightened. "You're supposed to be the best detective we've got—go and see if youcan do better with this than you did with the Grey case!"

    Monk knew precisely what he meant. Don't upset the family; they are quality, and we are verydefinitely not. Be properly respectful, not only in what you say, how you stand, or whetheryou meet their eyes, but more importantly in what you discover.

    Since he had no choice, Monk accepted with a look of bland unconcern, as if he had notunderstood the implications.

    "Yes sir. What number in Queen Anne Street?"

    "Number Ten. Take Evan with you. I daresay by the time you get there, there'll be some medicalopinion as to the time of her death and kind of weapon used. Well, don't stand there, man!Get on with it!"

    Monk turned on his heel without allowing time for Runcorn to add any more, and strode out,saying "Yes sir" almost under his breath. He closed the door with a sharpness very close to aslam.

    Evan was coming up the stairs towards him, his sensitive, mobile face expectant.

    "Murder in Queen Anne Street." Monk's irritation eased away. He liked Evan more than anyoneelse he could remember, and since his memory extended only as far back as the morning he hadwoken in the hospital four months ago, mistaking it at first for the poorhouse, thatfriendship was unusually precious to him. He also trusted Evan, one of only two people whoknew the utter blank of his life. The other person, Hester Latterly, he could hardly think ofas a friend. She was a brave, intelligent, opinionated and profoundly irritating woman who hadbeen of great assistance in the Grey case. Her father had been one of the victims, and shehad returned from her nursing post in the Crimea, although the war was actually over at thatpoint, in order to sustain her family in its grief. It was hardly likely Monk would meet heragain, except perhaps when they both came to testify at the trial of Menard Grey, which suitedMonk. He found her abrasive and not femininely pleasing, nothing like her sister-in-law, whoseface still returned to his mind with such elusive sweetness.

    Evan turned and fell into step behind him as they went down the stairs, through the duty roomand out into the street. It was late November and a bright, blustery day. The wind caught atthe wide skirts of the women, and a man ducked sideways and held on to his top hat withdifficulty as a carriage bowled past him and he avoided the mud and ordure thrown up by itswheels. Evan hailed a hansom cab, a new invention nine years ago, and much more convenientthan the old-fashioned coaches.

    "Queen Anne Street," he ordered the driver, and as soon as he and Monk were seated the cabsped forward, across Tottenham Court Road, and east to Portland Place, Langham Place and thena dogleg into Chandos Street and Queen Anne Street. On the journey Monk told Evan what Runcornhad said.

    "Who is Sir Basil Moidore?" Evan asked innocently.

    "No idea," Monk admitted. "He didn't tell me." He grunted. "Either he doesn't know himself orhe's leaving us to find out, probably by making a mistake."

    Evan smiled. He was quite aware of the ill feeling between Monk and his superior, and of mostof the reasons behind it. Monk was not easy to work with; he was opinionated, ambitious,intuitive, quick-tongued and acerbic of wit. On the other hand, he cared passionately aboutreal injustice, as he saw it, and minded little whom he offended in order to set it right. Hetolerated fools ungraciously, and fools, in his view, included Runcorn, an opinion of which hehad made little secret in the past.

    Runcorn was also ambitious, but his goals were different; he wanted social acceptability,praise from his superiors, and above all safety. His few victories over Monk were sweet tohim, and to be savored.

    They were in Queen Anne Street, elegant and discreet houses with gracious facades, highwindows and imposing entrances. They alighted, Evan paid the cabby, and they presentedthemselves at the servants' door of Number 10. It rankled to go climbing down the areawaysteps rather than up and in through the front portico, but it was far less humiliating thangoing to the front and being turned away by a liveried footman, looking down his nose, anddispatched to the back to ask again.

    "Yes?" the bootboy said soberly, his face pasty white and his apron crooked.

    "Inspector Monk and Sergeant Evan, to see Lord Moi-dore," Monk replied quietly. Whatever hisfeeling for Runcorn, or his general intolerance of fools, he had a deep pity for bereavementand the confusion and shock of sudden death.

    "Oh—" The bootboy looked startled, as if their presence had turned a nightmare into truth."Oh—yes. Yer'd better come in." He pulled the door wide and stepped back, turning into thekitchen to call for help, his voice plaintive and desperate. "Mr. Phillips! Mr. Phillips—thep'lice is 'ere!"

    The butler appeared from the far end of the huge kitchen. He was lean and a trifle stooped,but he had the autocratic face of a man used to command—and receiving obedience withoutquestion. He regarded Monk with both anxiety and distaste, and some surprise at Monk's well-cut suit, carefully laundered shirt, and polished, fine leather boots. Monk's appearance didnot coincide with his idea of a policeman's social position, which was beneath that of apeddler or a costermonger. Then he looked at Evan, with his long, curved nose and imaginativeeyes and mouth, and felt no better. It made him uncomfortable when people did not fit intotheir prescribed niches in the order of things. It was confusing.

    "Sir Basil will see you in the library," he said stiffly. "If you will come this way.'' Andwithout waiting to see if they did, he walked very uprightly out of the kitchen, ignoring thecook seated in a wooden rocking chair. They continued into the passageway beyond, past thecellar door, his own pantry, the still room, the outer door to the laundry, the housekeeper'ssitting room, and then through the green baize door into the main house.

     The hall floor was wood parquet, scattered with magnificent Persian carpets, and the wallswere half paneled and hung with excellent landscapes. Monk had a flicker of memory from somedistant time, perhaps a burglary detail, and the word Flemish came to mind. There was still

    so much that was closed in that part of him before the accident, and only flashes came back,like movement caught out of the corner of the eye, when one turns just too late to see.

    But now he must follow the butler, and train all his attention on learning the facts of thiscase. He must succeed, and without allowing anyone else to realize how much he was stumbling,guessing, piecing together from fragments out of what they thought was his store of knowledge.They must not guess he was working with the underworld connections any good detective has. Hisreputation was high; people expected brilliance from him. He could see that in their eyes,hear it in their words, the casual praise given as if they were merely remarking the obvious.He also knew he had made too many enemies to afford mistakes. He heard it between the wordsand in the inflections of a comment, the barb and then the nervousness, the look away. Only

    gradually was he discovering what he had done in the years before to earn their fear, theirenvy or their dislike. A piece at a time he found evidence of his own extraordinary skill, theinstinct, the relentless pursuit of truth, the long hours, the driving ambition, theintolerance of laziness, weakness in others, failure in himself. And of course, in spite ofall his disadvantages since the accident, he had solved the extremely difficult Grey case.

    They were at the library. Phillips opened the door and announced them, then stepped back toallow them in.

    The room was traditional, lined with shelves. One large bay window let in the light, and greencarpet and furnishings made it restful, almost gave an impression of a garden.

    But there was no time now to examine it. Basil Moidore stood in the center of the floor. Hewas a tall man, loose boned, unathletic, but not yet running to fat, and he held himself veryerect. He could never have been handsome; his features were too mobile, his mouth too large,the lines around it deeply etched and reflecting appetite and temper more than wit. His eyeswere startlingly dark, not fine, but very penetrating and highly intelligent. His thick,straight hair was thickly peppered with gray.

    Now he was both angry and extremely distressed. His skin was pale and he clenched andunclenched his hands nervously.

    "Good morning, sir." Monk introduced himself and Evan. He hated speaking to the newlybereaved—and there was something peculiarly appalling about seeing one's child dead— but hewas used to it. No loss of memory wiped out the familiarity of pain, and seeing it naked inothers.

    "Good morning, Inspector," Moidore said automatically. "I'm damned if I know what you can do,but I suppose you'd better try. Some ruffian broke in during the night and murdered mydaughter. I don't know what else we can tell you."

    "May we see the room where it happened, sir?" Monk asked quietly. "Has the doctor come yet?"

    Sir Basil's heavy eyebrows rose in surprise. "Yes—but I don't know what damned good the mancan do now."

    "He can establish the time and manner of death, sir."

    "She was stabbed some time during the night. It won't require a doctor to tell you that.'' SirBasil drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. His gaze wandered around the room, unableto sustain any interest in Monk. The inspector and Evan were only functionaries incidental tothe tragedy, and he was too shocked for his mind to concentrate on a single thought. Littlethings intruded, silly things; a picture crooked on the wall, the sun on the title of a book,the vase of late chrysanthemums on the small table. Monk saw it in his face and understood.

    " One of the servants will show us." Monk excused himself and Evan and turned to leave.

    "Oh. . .yes. And anything else you need," Basil acknowledged.

    "I suppose you didn't hear anything in the night, sir?" Evan asked from the doorway.

    Sir Basil frowned. "What? No, of course not, or I'd have mentioned it." And even before Evanturned away the man's attention had left them and was on the leaves wind whipped against thewindow.

    In the hall, Phillips the butler was waiting for them. He led them silently up the wide,curved staircase to the landing, carpeted in reds and blues and set with several tables aroundthe walls. It stretched to right and left fifty feet or more to oriel windows at either end.They were led to the left and stopped outside the third door.

    "In there, sir, is Miss Octavia's room," Phillips said very quietly. "Ring if you requireanything."

    Monk opened the door and went in, Evan close behind him. The room had a high, ornatelyplastered ceiling with pendant chandeliers. The floral curtains were drawn to let in thelight. There were three well-upholstered chairs, a dressing table with a three-mirror lookingglass, and a large four-poster bed draped in the same pink-and-green floral print as thecurtains. Across the bed lay the body of a young woman, wearing only an ivory silk nightgown,a dark crimson stain slashing down from the middle of her chest almost to her knees. Her armswere thrown wide and her heavy brown hair was loose over her shoulders.

    Monk was surprised to see beside her a slender man of just average height whose clever facewas now very grave and pinched in thought. The sun through the window caught his fair hair,thickly curled and sprinkled with white.

    "Police?" he asked, looking Monk up and down. "Dr. Faverell," he said as introduction. "Theduty constable called me when the footman called him—about eight o'clock."

    "Monk," Monk replied. "And Sergeant Evan. What can you tell us?"

    Evan shut the door behind them and moved closer to the bed, his young face twisted with pity.

    "She died some time during the night," Faverell replied bleakly. "From the stiffness of thebody I should say at least seven hours ago.'' He took his watch out of his pocket and glancedat it. "It's now ten past nine. That makes it well before, say, three a.m. at the veryoutside. One deep, rather ragged wound, very deep. Poor creature must have lost consciousnessimmediately and died within two or three minutes."

    "Are you the family physician?" Monk asked.

    "No. I live 'round the corner in Harley Street. Local constable knew my address."

    Monk moved closer to the bed, and Faverell stepped aside for him. The inspector leaned overand looked at the body. Her face had a slightly surprised look, as if the reality of death hadbeen unexpected, but even through the pallor there was a kind of loveliness left. The boneswere broad across the brow and cheek, the eye sockets were large with delicately marked brows,the lips full. It was a face of deep emotion, and yet femininely soft, a woman he might haveliked. There was something in the curve of her lips that reminded him for a moment of someoneelse, but he could not recall who.

    His eyes moved down and saw under the torn fabric of her nightgown the scratches on her throatand shoulder with smears of blood on them. There was another long rent in the silk from hem togroin, although it was folded over, as if to preserve decency. He looked at her hands, liftingthem gently, but her nails were perfect and there was no skin or blood under them. If she hadfought, she had not marked her attacker.

    He looked more carefully for bruises. There should be some purpling of the skin, even if shehad died only a few moments after being hurt. He searched her arms first, the most naturalplace for injury in a struggle, but there was nothing. He could find no mark on the legs orbody either.

    "She's been moved," he said after a few moments, seeing the pattern of the stains to the endof her garments, and only smears on the sheets beneath her where there should have been adeep pool. "Did you move her?"

    "No." Faverell shook his head. "I only opened the curtain." He looked around the floor. Therewere dark roses on the carpet. "There." He pointed. "That might be blood, and there's a tearon that chair. I suppose the poor woman put up aright."

    Monk looked around also. Several things on the dressing table were crooked, but it was hard totell what would have been the natural design. However a cut glass dish was broken, and therewere dried rose leaves scattered over the carpet underneath it. He had not noticed them beforein the pattern of the flowers woven in.

Evan walked towards the window.

    "It's unlatched," he said, moving it experimentally.

    “I closed it,'' the doctor put in. "It was open when I came, and damned cold. Took it intoaccount for the rigor, though, so don't bother to ask me. Maid said it was open when she camewith Mrs. Haslett's morning tray, but she didn't sleep with it open normally. I asked thattoo."

    "Thank you," Monk said dryly.

    Evan pushed the window all the way up and looked outside.

    "There's creeper of some sort here, sir; and it's broken in several places where it looks asif someone put his weight on it, some pieces crushed and leaves gone." He leaned out a littlefarther. "And there's a good ledge goes along as far as the drainpipe down. An agile man couldclimb it without too much difficulty."

    Monk went over and stood beside him. "Wonder why not the next room?" he said aloud. "That'scloser to the drainpipe, easier, and less chance of being seen."

    "Maybe it's a man's room?" Evan suggested. "No jewelry—or at least not much—a few silver-backed brushes, maybe, and studs, but nothing like a woman's."

    Monk was annoyed with himself for not having thought of the same thing. He pulled his headback in and turned to the doctor.

    "Is there anything else you can tell us?"

    "Not a thing, sorry." He looked harassed and unhappy. "I'll write it out for you, if you want.But now I've got live patients to see. Must be going. Good day to you."

    "Good day." Monk came back to the landing door with him. "Evan, go and see the maid that foundher, and get her ladies' maid and go over the room to see if anything's missing, jewelry inparticular. We can try the pawnbrokers and fences. I'm going to speak to some of the familywho sleep on this floor."

     * * * * *

    The next room turned out to be that of Cyprian Moidore, the dead woman's elder brother, andMonk saw him in the morning room. It was overfurnished, but agreeably warm;

    presumably the downstairs maids had cleaned the grate, sanded and swept the carpets and litthe fires long before quarter to eight, when the upstairs maids had gone to waken the family.

    Cyprian Moidore resembled his father in build and stance. His features were similar—theshort, powerful nose, the broad mouth with the extraordinary mobility which might so easilybecome loose in a weaker man. His eyes were softer and his hair still dark.

    Now he looked profoundly shaken.

    "Good morning, sir," Monk said as he came into the room and closed the door.

    Cyprian did not reply.

    "May I ask you, sir, is it correct that you occupy the bedroom next to Mrs. Haslett's?"

    "Yes." Cyprian met his eyes squarely; there was no belligerence in them, only shock.

    "What time did you retire, Mr. Moidore?"

    Cyprian frowned. "About eleven, or a few minutes after. I didn't hear anything, if that iswhat you are going to ask."

    “And were you in your room all night, sir?'' Monk tried to phrase it without being offensive,but it was impossible.

    Cyprian smiled very faintly.

    "I was last night. My wife's room is next to mine, the first as you leave the stair head.'' Heput his hands into his pockets. “My son has the room opposite, and my daughters the one nextto that. But I thought we had established that whoever it was broke into Octavia's roomthrough the window."

     "It looks most likely, sir," Monk agreed. "But it may not be the only room they tried. And

     through her window. We knowout of course it is possible they came in elsewhere and went

    only that the creeper was broken. Was Mrs. Haslett a light sleeper?"

    "No—" At first he was absolutely certain, then doubt flickered in his face. He took his handsout of his pockets. "At least I think not. But what difference does it make now? Isn't thisreally rather a waste of time?" He moved a step closer to the fire. "It is indisputablesomeone broke in and she discovered him, and instead of simply running, the wretch stabbedher." His face darkened. "You should be out there looking for him, not in here askingirrelevant questions! Perhaps she was awake anyway. People do sometimes waken in the night.''

    Monk bit back the reply that rose instinctively.

    "I was hoping to establish the time," he continued levelly. "It would help when we come toquestion the closest constable on the beat, and any other people who might have been aroundat that hour. And of course it would help when we catch anyone, if he could prove he waselsewhere."

    "If he was elsewhere, then you wouldn't have the right person, would you!" Cyprian saidacidly.

    "If we didn't know the relevant time, sir, we might think we had!" Monk replied immediately."I'm sure you don't want the wrong man hanged!”

    Cyprian did not bother to answer.

     * * * * *

    The three women of the immediate family were waiting together in the withdrawing room, allclose to the fire: Lady Moidore stiff-backed, white-faced on the sofa; her surviving daughter,Araminta, in one of the large chairs to her right, hollow-eyed as if she had not slept indays; and her daughter-in-law, Romola, standing behind her, her face reflecting horror andconfusion.

    "Good morning, ma'am." Monk inclined his head to Lady Moidore, then acknowledged the others.

    None of them replied. Perhaps they did not consider it necessary to observe such niceties inthe circumstances.

    "I am deeply sorry to have to disturb you at such a tragic time," he said with difficulty. Hehated having to express condolences to someone whose grief was so new and devastating. He wasa stranger intruding into their home, and all he could offer were words, stilted andpredictable. But to have said nothing would be grossly uncaring.

    "I offer you my deepest sympathy, ma'am."

    Lady Moidore moved her head very slightly in indication that she had heard him, but she didnot speak.

    He knew who the two younger women were because one of them shared the remarkable hair of hermother, a vivid shade of golden red which in the dark room seemed almost as alive as theflames of the fire. Cyprian's wife, on the other hand, was much darker, her eyes brown and

her hair almost black. He turned to address her.

    "Mrs. Moidore?"

     "Yes?" She stared at him in alarm.

    "Your bedroom window is between Mrs. Haslett's and the main drainpipe, which it seems theintruder climbed. Did you hear any unaccustomed sounds during the night, any disturbances atall?"

    She looked very pale. Obviously the thought of the murderer passing her window had notoccurred to her before. Her hands gripped the back of Araminta's chair.

    "No—nothing. I do not customarily sleep well, but last night I did." She closed her eyes."How fearful!"

    Araminta was of a harder mettle. She sat rigid and slender, almost bony under the light fabricof her morning gown—no one had thought of changing into black yet. Her face was thin, wide-eyed, her mouth curiously asymmetrical. She would have been beautiful but for a certainsharpness, something brittle beneath the surface.

    "We cannot help you, Inspector." She addressed him with candor, neither avoiding his eyes normaking any apology. "We saw Octavia before she retired last night, at about eleven o'clock, ora few minutes before. I saw her on the landing, then she went to my mother's room to wish hergood-night, and then to her own room. We went to ours. My husband will tell you the same. Wewere awoken this morning by the maid, Annie, crying and calling out that something terriblehad happened. I was the first to open the door after Annie. I saw straight away that Octaviawas dead and we could not help her. I took Annie out and sent her to Mrs. Willis; she is thehousekeeper. The poor child was looking very sick. Then I found my father, who was about toassemble the servants for morning prayers, and told him what had happened. He sent one of thefootmen for the police. There really isn't anything more to say."

    "Thank you, ma'am." Monk looked at Lady Moidore. She had the broad brow and short, strong noseher son had inherited, but a far more delicate face, and a sensitive, almost ascetic mouth.When she spoke, even drained by grief as she was, there was a beauty of vitality andimagination in her.

    "I can add nothing, Inspector," she said very quietly. "My room is in the other wing of thehouse, and I was unaware of any tragedy or intrusion until my maid, Mary, woke me and then myson told me what had . . . happened."

     "Thank you, my lady. I hope it will not be necessary to

    disturb you again." He had not expected to learn anything; it was really only a formality thathe asked, but to overtook it would have been careless. He excused himself and went to findEvan back in the servants' quarters.

    However Evan had discovered nothing of moment either, except a list of the missing jewelrycompiled by the ladies' maid: two rings, a necklace and a bracelet, and, oddly, a small silvervase.

    A little before noon they left the Moidore house, now with its blinds drawn and black crepe onthe door. Already, out of respect for die dead, the grooms were spreading straw on the roadwayto deaden the sharp sound of horses' hooves.

    "What now?" Evan asked as they stepped out into the footpath. "The bootboy said there was aparty at the east end, on the corner of Chandos Street. One of the coachmen or footmen mayhave seen something." He raised his eyebrows hopefully.

    "And there'll be a duty constable somewhere around," Monk added. "I'll find him, you take theparty. Corner house, you said?"

"Yes sir—people called Bentley.''

    "Report back to the station when youVe finished."

    “Yes sir.'' And Evan turned on his heel and walked rapidly away, more gracefully than hislean, rather bony body would have led one to expect.

    Monk took a hansom back to the station to find the home address of the constable who wouldhave been patrolling the area during the night.

    An hour later he was sitting in the small, chilly front parlor in a house off Euston Road,sipping a mug of tea opposite a sleepy, unshaven constable who was very ill at ease. It wassome five minutes into the conversation before Monk began to realize that the man had knownhim before and that his anxiety was not based on any omission or failure of duty last nightbut on something that had occurred in their previous meeting, of which Monk had no memory atall.

    He found himself searching the man's face, trying without success to bring any feature of itback to recollection, and twice he missed what was said.

    "I'm sorry, Miller; what was that?" he apologized the second time.

     Miller looked embarrassed, uncertain whether this was an

    acknowledgment of inattention or some implied criticism that his statement was unbelievable.

    "I said I passed by Queen Anne Street on the west side, down Wimpole Street an' up again along'Arley Street, every twenty minutes last night, sir. I never missed, 'cause there wasn't nodisturbances and I didn't 'ave ter stop fer any thin'.''

    Monk frowned. “You didn't see anybody about? No one at all?"

    "Oh I saw plenty o' people—but no one as there shouldn't 'a bin," Miller replied. "There wasa big party up the other corner o' Chandos Street where it turns inter Cavendish Square.Coachmen and footmen an' all sorts 'angin' around till past three in the mornin', but theywasn't making no nuisance an' they certainly wasn't climbing up no drainpipes to get in nowinders." He screwed up his face as if he were about to add something, then changed his mind.

    "Yes?" Monk pressed.

    But Miller would not be drawn. Again Monk wondered if it was because of their pastassociation, and if Miller would have spoken for someone else. There was so much he did notknow! Ignorance about police procedures, underworld connections, the vast store of knowledgea good detective kept. Not knowing was hampering him at every turn, making it necessary forhim to work twice as hard in order to hide his vulnerability; but it did not end the deep fearcaused by ignorance about himself. What manner of man was the self that stretched for yearsbehind him, to that boy who had left Northumberland full of an ambition so consuming he hadnot written regularly to his only relative, his younger sister who had loved him so loyally inspite of his silence? He had found her letters in his rooms—sweet, gentle letters full ofreferences to what should have been familiar.

    Now he sat here in this small, neat house and tried to get answers from a man who wasobviously frightened of him. Why? It was impossible to ask.

    "Anyone else?" he said hopefully.

    "Yes sir," Miller said straightaway, eager to please and beginning to master his nervousness."There was a doctor paid a call near the corner of 'Arley Street and Queen Anne Street. I saw'im leave, but I din't see 'im get there."

     "Do you know his name?"

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