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Authors: Paula Marshall

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‘Out,' he ordered. ‘Your jailer's gone. Run away, and ask for help at the Salvation Army hostel, the one across Waterloo Bridge—they'll look after you. Trust no one else.'

For a moment none of them moved. They shivered away from him, cowed, unable to believe what he was saying. Cobie hesitated. A thought struck him. He moved on to the next room and unlocked the door to that. This time a group of young girls, sullen and ragged, none of them older than sixteen, faced him.

‘Who the devil are you?' asked one bold girl, who held her arm out to prevent the rest from making an undisciplined bolt for freedom. She was well spoken, and he wondered what dreadful circumstances had brought her to this
cut-price bawdy house where the worst of perversions and vices were on sale.

‘The devil,' Cobie replied, unhesitating.

‘Aye, Lord Satan,' said the bold girl cheekily. ‘It would need the devil to free us from here, seeing that it was he who brought us here.'

‘Well, I've come to set you free. The little ones next door are too frightened to leave. We must help them, before Hoskyns's bully boys arrive to do for all of us. I've told them to go to the nearest Salvation Army hostel—see that they go there.'

He ran down the stairs towards the front door, the children and the girls after him. Above them, Hoskyns panting and shouting, had recovered sufficiently to stumble clumsily to his feet and begin to make for safety.

Once Cobie and his following were all downstairs he threw the oil lamp up towards the first landing. Almost immediately the flames from it began to eat the decaying wooden banisters: the whole house was rotten with age, and stank of mould, so that the fire spread rapidly.

The girls and the children rushed screaming through the front door, hopefully in the direction of salvation—all except the one who had been their leader. She had returned to the kitchen which he was setting alight with another lamp, and had taken a carving knife from the drawer.

He stopped his urgent work to ask, ‘Why that?'

‘It's for him,' she said wolfishly, ‘the devil that brought me here, and held me down for others to enjoy. I want him—unless you've killed him already.'

‘No,' Cobie shook his head. ‘I let him go, he told me what I wanted to know, and even the devil finds it difficult to kill in cold blood.'

The real truth was, that he could not add to the toll he
had already taken without fearing what yet another killing would do to him.

She laughed, and pointed towards the bottom of the stairs. ‘Here he comes.'

It was Hoskyns, screaming, his hands still tied behind his back, making for the door. He had almost reached safety. When he saw the girl he shouted at her, ‘Help me! Help me!'

The girl laughed at him. ‘Aye, as you helped me,' and, the knife in her hand, careless of the flames licking about them, she was on him, to thrust the knife into his heart, so that he fell at her feet, where she kicked at him.

The house was rapidly turning into an inferno. Cobie caught the girl by the arm when she kicked at the dead man again.

‘There's no time for that, and you've had your revenge. Come away, or the flames will have us both.'

‘What do I care, mister? Where shall I go? To find another like him? Who will look after such a thing as I have become?'

He caught her up, even as she spoke, and ran with her in his arms through the flames to the kitchen door. There were people outside, drawn by the fire; some were shouting for the Fire Brigade, others for the police.

Several tried to help Cobie and the girl. He thrust them away, and shouting, ‘She's not hurt,' he pushed through the crowd, who were so eager to see the fire's conclusion that they ignored him.

Safely away from the gathering mob he put the girl down, and croaked at her, ‘If I tell you where to go, and put you in a cab with proper directions to get there, will you do what I ask?'

She stared at him. ‘You said that you were the devil. Can I trust you?'

‘As much as you can trust anyone. I am sending you to a home for lost children. Tell them that Mr Dilley sent you. Do not tell them you are from Hoskyns's house. Tell them anything but the truth—you seem to be able to look after yourself.'

‘So you say. Yes, I'll trust you.'

‘Good.' He took her by the arm and ran her further away from the fire which was now lighting up the whole river bank: a fit funeral pyre for the man who lay in its heart.

They were back on the Embankment. In the middle distance he could see Hendrick Van Deusen's carriage. A cab plying for hire came up to them. He raised a hand to stop it, opened the door to push the girl in and, once she was safely sitting down inside, he wrenched off his woollen helmet so that his bright hair fell about his face.

‘Take her to the Salvation Army Home in Sea Coal Street. Quickly.'

The money he handed the cabby was twice the fare. The cabby tipped his whip at him, and drove away at speed.

Cobie watched them go. The aftermath of the rage was strong in him. Nausea and pain fought for supremacy with bitter remorse. He shrugged and began to trot towards the carriage where the Professor was waiting for him.

He knocked on the side of it, to be admitted, and immediately began to change into his fine clothes. The Professor was trying to help him, raising bushy eyebrows when he took Cobie's six-gun and belt from him. Unseen, his coachman drove them steadily towards the West End, to Belgravia—where children were bought and sold in more luxurious surroundings than any Hoskyns could offer.

The Professor said, ‘Busy minding everyone's business again, Jake?' and he gestured towards the light in the sky.

‘You might say so.' Cobie was struggling to do up his shirt, not helped by his erratic sight—the post-rage migraine strong in him.

‘Any more notches on the old six-shooter?' The Professor's voice could not have been more sardonic.

‘Half a notch. The actual killing was done by someone who had an even better reason than I had to finish the beast off.' He fell silent.

‘Where to now?' The Professor asked no more questions. If Jake wanted to tell him of what had passed, he would. If not, not.

‘Somewhere where I can be seen with you again, and I can find temporary oblivion.'

The Professor was cheerful. ‘Oh, I think I can promise you that…'

Behind them the flames reached higher and higher into the sky, to fall back until now it was only the moon which illuminated the firemen and police who struggled about among the hot ashes—to find Hoskyns lying among them, a kitchen knife in his heart.

Chapter Eleven

his would happen just when we had no one following him.'

Walker's tone was more one of disgust than anger. It was three o'clock on the following morning and he and Bates were standing in the still-warm debris of Hoskyns's house.

‘Oh, come on, guv,' said Bates, who thought that Walker was being uncharacteristically wrong-headed about Mr Dilley. ‘You surely don't think he had anything to do with this.'

Walker said nothing for a moment. He had been fetched from his bed to deal with a case of arson and murder since Hoskyns's charred remains had been found in the ashes, the knife in his heart. He had also been told—to his chagrin—by the Commissioner that Hoskyns had been one of those who had escaped arrest at Madame Louise's and that ‘higher authority' had allowed him to open his new house unhindered.

‘Of course it's him,' he said at last, for it was no business of Mr Dilley's to do the police force's work for them—even if those at the top were betraying the poor hard
working coppers at the bottom. ‘You saw his face yesterday morning, didn't you?'

Bates recalled Mr Dilley's impassive expression, his stillness while standing over the dead girl. ‘I didn't think it bothered him much,' he said truthfully, remembering other people confronted with such deaths, raving and crying vengeance. ‘Cool about it all, wasn't he?'

‘You're a fool, Bates,' Walker said. ‘That's what showed him to be dangerous.'

‘Well, if you think as 'ow it's 'im, what do we do next?'

‘Good question, Bates,' and Bates wasn't sure whether or not his superior was being sarcastic. ‘We'll go and find out what he's been doing since he left the morgue. I'll lay odds that Mr Dilley will have an alibi, but I'll break it as sure as my name's Walker. I'm not having him carrying on his murdering games on my patch.'

‘There's some that would say that he's done us a favour, killing such a villain,' Bates observed. ‘And how did
know Hoskyns had started up again? We didn't, until the fire brought all the informers running up to tell us about it and make suggestions as to who done it. One of his rivals, they think…sir.'

‘Then they think wrong. Now, it's off to Park Lane to find out where he's been, what he's been up to.'

‘At this hour, guv?' Bates was looking at his watch. ‘It's only just gone three. Jumping on the quality in their own homes in the middle of the night. Aren't we in enough trouble?'

‘I'll take that risk, Bates. And even if we get nowhere, I want him to know that he hasn't fooled me.'


Dinah had been disappointed when Cobie hadn't arrived back in time to escort her to Violet's supper party. It was
a small family one, and Violet might grumble at his absence, but she would welcome Dinah, with or without an escort.

The welcome would be because, unaccountably, eighteen-year-old Lady Dinah Grant was becoming a personage in society to be reckoned with. The Prince had more than approved of her, and the delicate wit which Cobie had admired from the moment that he had met her was gaining a wider acceptance. It would not do to be seen to be unfriendly to the sister whom she had once despised.

‘Where is he, then?' Violet demanded of Dinah imperiously in the drawing room, before they adjourned for their informal meal.

‘On business, he said.'

Dinah was brief. Cobie often was, and she was beginning to copy his ways. The less you said, the less you needed to explain.

‘At this hour!' Violet snorted her disgust and disbelief.

Dinah chose to improvise a little. ‘I believe,' she said carefully, ‘as I told you before, that Americans often do business in places other than their offices—places where…good women can't go.'

‘I know that.' Violet was more imperious than ever. She said nastily. ‘I'm surprised that he's taken up with all that again so soon after your marriage. Still, men!'

It had surprised Dinah, too, and saddened her a little. She had been given a Kenilworth cousin to take her in to supper, and, after Cobie, she found him dull. She found the whole occasion dull.

Rainey said to her, after supper, ‘Husband not here. He's not neglecting you, I hope?'

What did she say to that, remembering the delirious night they had spent together, the way he had kissed her before
he had left that morning—and the promise he had made of more fun when he returned in the evening. Nothing, of course. Let Rainey, Violet and the others make what they would of his absence. They had been happy enough to sell her to him without knowing how he would treat her.

All the same, it was a disappointment to discover that he was not yet home when she finally returned there. Her bed seemed a lonely place without him beside her. She wondered what it could be of such importance that he had broken his word to her. She knew, without him telling her, but from all that he said and did that, palter verbally with the truth as he might when speaking to other people, in all the personal things which concerned them, he had, so far, never been less than honest.

Well, there was always a first time. She fell into an uneasy sleep, her arms around the pillow, not around him.


A knock on the door aroused her. To her surprise it was not yet day, although the first faint light of the early summer dawn was straying through the curtains.

It was Pearson, wearing a brown cloth dressing gown over her night-wear.

‘Oh, Lady Dinah, Mr Chandler's sent me. It's the police. They want to talk to Mr Grant, but he hasn't returned home yet. They said they'd like to talk to you, instead.'

He was not back yet! That thought struck her before the strangeness of the arrival of the police. Could it be that something had happened to him? Panic rose and swelled in her, clogged her throat.

‘Do you want to see them, Lady Dinah? Shall I tell them to come back in the morning? It's not fit for you to receive them at this hour. Whatever would Mr Grant say?'

‘He's not here, and so he can't say anything,' retorted
Dinah briskly through stiff lips. ‘Go and tell Chandler I will be with them shortly—in the drawing room. Then come back and help me into my tea gown, a pair of slippers, and do my hair up. That should make me respectable enough to speak to any number of policemen.'

Thus dressed, looking as though she expected the tea tray in at any moment, as though it were after four in the afternoon and not nearly four in the morning, she swept into the drawing room, announced by a strongly disapproving Chandler.

There were two of them waiting for her, both hard-faced men in plain clothes. Her anxieties grew by the moment. Say he is not dead? Say he has not had an accident? I couldn't bear it. Not now. She knew suddenly that the love combined with hero-worship which she had felt for him from the first moment she had seen him at Moorings had turned into a grand passion—something of which she had read, but had never hoped to experience.

If they tell me that he is dead, I want to die. I cannot live without him.

The Marquise's training held, even in her growing distress. They were standing. She motioned them to chairs. They refused to sit. The taller, older, better-dressed one, said crisply. ‘Forgive us this intrusion, Lady Dinah, but we had hoped to interview your husband…'

Hands clasped nervously together, she interrupted him before he could say any more. ‘You have not come to tell me of an accident to him, then? He isn't…hurt…is he?'

‘Oh, no, Lady Dinah. We have come to ask him a few questions about something which occurred last night. We think that he might have been…a witness. The butler says that he hasn't come home yet. Is that usual, Lady Dinah? Does your husband frequently stay out all night?'

He was alive, and that was all that mattered.

‘Indeed, no, Inspector. This is the first time that he has done so since we were married.'

Walker inclined his head. It had been his idea to speak to Mr Dilley's wife. He had known that she was young, but not so young as she had proved to be. Bates had argued with him, had said, ‘She'll know nothing, guv. Won't be able to tell us anything.'

Well, she had told Walker something. Whatever Mr Dilley's feelings for his pretty young wife were, she loved him, no doubt about it. Fear had been written on her face until relief that he was safe had followed it.

‘Is that all?' Dinah asked him, seeing that he remained silent, thinking that they could have spared her both her fright, and her hasty dressing. ‘If that is so, Inspector, you will excuse me.'

‘You would not object to us questioning the servants, Lady Dinah?'

Dinah's beautiful eyebrows rose. ‘Not at all, Inspector. Although I cannot think what you hope to learn.'

This came out so much in Mr Dilley's manner that Walker knew at once how potent his influence was on the girl before him.

‘Police work is built up on the acquisition of unconsidered trifles, Lady Dinah,' he offered her, making his tone as deferential as he could.

They moved towards the door, and into the entrance hall, Dinah to go to her room, Walker and Bates to the servants' hall. Neither was to get there quickly.

The big front door was being unlocked. Voices could be heard, and stumbling steps. The door was flung open, incontinent, and three men stood there.

Or rather, two men stood there. The third, abstemious,
temperate, sober Cobie Grant hung between them, unable to walk without assistance. Oh, he had made a night of it, no doubt of that! Even at a distance he reeked of liquor, deliberately so, to hide the smell of fire which had been strong upon him.

Supporting him was Mr Van Deusen, patently not quite sober, but not as far gone as Cobie, and another man, Bellenger Hodson, whom Dinah only knew by sight as yet another rich American newcomer to London society.

Cobie stared drunkenly at the three of them.

‘What the devil, Dinah, my love…why are you entertaining the police at this hour?'

Even in the state he was in, the mockery which always riled Walker was strong in his voice.

Before Walker could answer Mr Van Deusen spoke, saying apologetically, ‘Sorry about this, Lady Dinah. But we have been combining business with pleasure with Hodson here, and I'm afraid we all got rather enthusiastic after the deal was completed, particularly your husband—he's not used to strong liquor, you see.'

There was some truth in this. They had done an impromptu deal with Hodson after meeting him in a gaming club to which they had been driven after he had picked Cobie up. Once there Cobie had deliberately drunk himself into a state where he couldn't think clearly about anything, particularly Lizzie Steele's death, and what had just happened at Hoskyns's house.

Mr Van Deusen was roaring on. ‘We told him that we'd get him home safely without you knowing. We never thought you'd be up at this hour—bad luck, that.'

Walker, gritting his teeth, certain that Mr Dilley was going to slip through his hands again, said woodenly to Mr
Van Deusen, ‘Are you saying he's been with you all night, sir?'

‘Certainly, Inspector; in fact, Mr Grant has been with me since shortly after noon yesterday. Business first, you understand, then pleasure. Ain't that so, Hodson?'

Hodson, himself pretty far gone, nodded agreement. Only to the last part of the statement, of course, not the first—but Walker was not to know that.

‘Let's get him to bed, Inspector,' pleaded Mr Van Deusen. ‘I want to get there myself, you see.'

Cobie was now hanging, a dead weight between them, his eyes rolled up into his head. He was by no means quite so drunk as everyone thought he was, but to appear to have lapsed into unconsciousness might hold the Inspector off for the time being.

Dinah suddenly took charge. She said firmly, ‘By all means, let us get my husband to bed. I'll ring for Chandler, and he can rouse one of the footmen to help get him into it. And you two,' she said to Mr Van Deusen and to Hodson, ‘may stay here for what remains of the night. We have beds enough for an army.

‘As for you, Inspector,' she said severely, rounding on the discomfited Walker and the inwardly grinning Bates, ‘you may delay your questioning of my husband and his friends until they are in a fit state to answer you. I suggest Scotland Yard at three o'clock tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, I propose to return to my bed. Goodnight to you all,' and she was gone in a preposterous flurry of

But not before, when she swept by him, her husband had opened his eyes and rewarded her with his sweetest smile.

Oh, she knew
that look
, she did! What had he been get
ting up to now? She knew that he had been getting up to something, he and Mr Van Deusen. She trusted neither of them an inch. Not an inch!


Cobie sat on his bed the next morning—his body, his head and his hand were one vast ache. Worse, when he tried to think, everything hurt even more. He rose, stripped off his night gown, stared at his drawn grey face in the mirror, ran stone-cold water into his bath, and in one swift shuddering movement immersed himself in it. Everything, including his brain, clenched. He had a visual experience of total recall: Lizzie Steele, lying dead and mutilated in the Limehouse morgue.

He closed his eyes, uselessly, to shut out the inward sight, then rose, streaming from the water, having dipped his bright head in it, to seize a towel and dry himself as though he were punishing someone.

He couldn't honestly take the blame for Lizzie Steele's death—after all, he had saved her once, and had tried to arrange for her to be saved permanently, but it was on his conscience just the same. Still immature, he told himself morosely, still haven't grown up, won't recognise my own limitations: Hendrick is right—still trying to rearrange the whole world to my liking. He remembered Susanna telling him that once, years ago.

BOOK: The Dollar Prince's Wife
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