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Authors: Paula Marshall

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‘I don't like being made a monkey of, Bates, even if you're happy to dance round his barrel organ. I'd like to cut
his
throat.'

‘Sir…' began Bates indignantly.

‘Oh, shut up and go home, man,' Walker ground out wearily. ‘You've done enough damage for one night. Get some iodine on that cut.'

He watched his wretched sergeant begin to walk away,
then called to him, his voice as nasty as he could make it, ‘Oh, and another thing, Bates.'

Bates turned, ‘Sir?'

‘For God's sake, shave off the rest of your moustache before you report to me in the morning. You look a right fool with half of it gone!'

 

Cobie couldn't sleep that night. In the small hours he rose and walked to the window to stare out at Hyde Park in the darkness. Improbably, it wasn't what he had done that day, the risks he had taken, and was taking, which kept him awake, it was Dinah Freville.

How in the world had she arrived from nowhere to walk in his dreams? Her white reproachful face, that last day at Moorings, haunted him. Perhaps it was seeing Lizzie Steele which had done the damage. Or his tormenting of the unwary copper whom the wary copper had sent after him. He was prepared to suborn half the police at Scotland Yard to avenge Lizzie Steele and her fellow victims, but he had done nothing yet for Dinah.

Tomorrow. He would do something tomorrow. Find out, if he could, where she was, how she was being treated, and then decide what to do if Violet's cruelty was continuing. It was as though two images came together in his mind. One was of Lizzie when he had first seen her, the other was of Dinah's stricken face—and the second image was his fault, and no one else's.

The rage took him; he struck his clenched left fist hard into his open right hand, the only action he dared to allow himself. And after he had thought what to do about Dinah, he must see the wary copper, to find out whether his attempt at major corruption had succeeded.

 

‘I can scarcely credit this, Walker. You are sure of what you are telling me?'

‘Quite sure, sir. I visited Coutts first thing this morning. They would tell me nothing of Mr Horne—which was what I expected. What they did say after I showed them his note—and they had obviously been primed by him to say it—was that he had an account there. They would release the promised sovereigns to us, tomorrow, when he sent word to them to do so. The same went for the bank draft.'

‘You have absolutely no idea who he is, or whom he might represent? I find it difficult to believe that a man who is offering us all this money is wandering around London dressed and speaking like a common thief.'

‘No idea at all. I sent Bates after him, to try to trace where he came from, but he muffed it. Our man threatened to kill anyone we sent to trail him. By the way he treated Bates I'm inclined to believe that he might have meant what he said.'

The Commissioner shook his head in disbelief. ‘I would have thought that you knew every major villain who lurked in London's sinks and alley ways. But you don't know him.'

‘No, but I have a nark at Coutts. A junior clerk. He helps me a little in exchange for the ready. I spoke to him after I had seen the manager. He told me that, by chance, he had overheard something about the Horne account. He thought nothing of it at the time, but now that I was interested he would pass it on—in exchange for the usual, of course. Our man might be a Yankee, he said, that was all, no name.'

‘A Yankee?' The Commissioner stared at Walker. ‘Not what you described, surely?'

‘I know. Frankly, I can't believe it. On the other hand,
to be able to dispose of so many thousand pounds suggests a Yankee. More to the point—do we take up his offer?'

‘Are you joking, Walker? Of course we'll accept his offer. They've been growing careless at Madame Louise's lately. I've an informer there who told me that some weeks ago one of the…younger…inhabitants escaped, no one quite knows how, and has disappeared completely. A bad business, that. Madame and her runner have grown complacent. Wouldn't hurt to raid them, let it be known that it was because they'd grown careless. We don't want a scandal, do we? It wouldn't be a bad idea to make an example of them—it might frighten the rest into being more careful. We kill two birds that way. Guard our own position and gain our man's massive…sweetener.'

Walker did not inform the Commissioner that he was using almost the same words about the raid as the mysterious Mr Horne.

Instead he said slowly, ‘I think, from something he said, that it was our man who made off with the…younger inhabitant. No, I've no idea where she is. And we're no nearer to knowing who he is. So, I'm to meet him tonight, agree his terms, give him the date and time of the raid—shall I have someone try to follow him again?'

The Commissioner thought for a moment before he said, ‘I think not. I'd like to know who he is, what game he's really playing, whether he's some Yankee come over to take charge of the underworld here—but for the moment we'll take it that he's telling you the truth. He's doing us a favour, Walker, apart from the money, I mean. No, we'll keep our eyes and ears open and try to identify him, but not tonight. By the by, I can't believe he's a gentleman.'

You mean I'll keep my eyes and ears open, thought Walker sardonically, you'll sit on your backside here
and take the credit. And if you don't think he's a gentleman—or what passes for one—I do. I shall make it my business to investigate all the Yankees running round London society at the moment, for I swear I'll have him, if it takes me the next year. No man speaks to Will Walker—or treats his sergeant—as he did.'

He didn't tell the Commissioner of the hundred golden sovereigns which Mr Horne had handed over to him. It was no business of his.

 

Dinah hadn't seen Mr Grant since she had come to London with Violet for the Season. She had been introduced to many other men, none of whom showed the slightest interest in Lady K.'s younger sister, whose dowry, word had it, would be negligible. She couldn't ask Violet about him, and she had only found out by speaking to Mr Hendrick Van Deusen that he had been to Paris.

‘On business,' Mr Van Deusen had said, ‘but he should be back any day now.'

Dinah had changed her mind about Mr Van Deusen. He was kind to her, and since Violet had no interest in him, she had no interest in discouraging him from speaking to Dinah.

He was clever, too. He was interested in the things that she and Faa were. After Mr Grant had left Moorings, Van Deusen had played chess with her and talked about whether Gibbon had been accurate in his writings on the Roman Empire. He didn't seem to think that she was foolish to wish to go to Somerville.

One day, sitting in the grounds before the great seventeenth-century fountain which an ancestor of Lord Kenilworth's had brought back from Italy, she said to him abruptly, ‘Have you known him long?'

Mr Van Deusen looked up from his book. It was written in German, and looked learned.

‘Who?' he asked her, although he already knew whom she meant.

‘Mr Grant? I know that you're a friend of his. A great friend. I watched you play chess with him once.'

‘Yes. We're friends. I owe him a debt of gratitude.' He stopped—and didn't tell her what it was.

Dinah couldn't prevent herself from quizzing him further. No lady should ever ask anyone personal questions, but she suddenly wanted to know more about Mr Grant. More than that he was a handsome man who had first been kind to her and then cruel. He puzzled her—for she was sure that he was not what he seemed. She also knew, from what he had said in that odd chess game, that Mr Van Deusen was aware of that, too.

‘How did you come to meet him?'

Mr Van Deusen considered her gravely for a moment. To tell her the truth was impossible for any number of reasons. Even to him, sitting beside Dinah in this civilised garden, the peace of the English countryside all about them, the truth seemed even more improbable than any fiction he might invent.

‘By accident,' he said at last. ‘I had lost my way. He put me on the right one,' which was, after a twisted fashion, the truth. ‘He was very young at the time.'

He had a sudden flash of memory. He was back in New Mexico, on the edge of the desert. Cobie Grant, who was then twenty-year-old Jumpin' Jake Coburn, a six-shooter in his left hand, was standing over him where he lay wounded. Two men who had been trying to kill him from ambush lay dead in the rocks above them—and Mr Van Deusen's
debt of gratitude for their deaths, and his salvation, was still not fully paid.

‘Oh,' said Dinah doubtfully, trying to visualise the circumstances in which Mr Van Deusen, who seemed commendably capable of finding his way in any circumstances you might care to name, needed to be helped to do so.

‘Was that when you played chess together?' and then, ‘Have you ever managed to beat him when he cared to play properly?'

Mr Van Deusen told Dinah the whole truth this time.

‘I don't think,' he said, ‘that I could ever beat Mr Grant at anything he was playing properly. Nor could many others.'

‘I thought so.' Dinah's tone was melancholy. ‘He doesn't wish to let people know that, does he?'

She had surprised him, but he didn't let it show. ‘No, but it's clever of you to have grasped that.'

That was the end. She had already broken too many rules of conduct and she could not bring herself to break any more by questioning him further. The whole conversation made her feel melancholy. For why should such a man as she dimly saw Mr Grant to be, feel any need to trouble himself about anyone as insignificant as Dinah Freville?

If she had surprised Hendrick Van Deusen a little by the nature of her questions and her response to his answers, it was his turn to surprise her a little by saying negligently, before he returned to his book, and she to hers, ‘You know, Lady Dinah, that he's a man
you
can trust, although I can't honestly say that many others would be wise to do so.'

‘Oh, no,' she said sadly, ‘I don't think you're right there, Mr Van Deusen.' She was thinking of that dreadful three-sided conversation she had had with him and Violet on the day before he left Moorings.

‘Nevertheless,' he said gently, and this time he did begin to read again, but Dinah's book lay neglected on her knee. She was too busy pondering about the unlikely turn of events which had made two such different people as firmly friendly as she was suddenly sure Mr Van Deusen and Mr Grant truly were, to take any interest in the events surrounding the murder of Elegabalus in the very long ago.

For the first time events in the here and now seemed much more important than those in the lost past. Particularly those events which surrounded that elusive and enigmatic scoundrel Mr Jacobus Grant—for some reason her talk with Mr Van Deusen had made her sure that that was exactly what he was!

 

Mr Van Deusen was nearly as elusive as his friend. She was thinking this while she prepared to go to a reception at Harrendene House where she knew that Mr Grant was due to be present, because Violet had told her so.

She had also said, pinching Dinah's arm to make sure that she was attending, ‘And don't make a fool of yourself over him, mind. Remember what that got you, last time.'

Dinah had nodded mutely, and now, putting on her childish dress, which wouldn't attract any man—let alone him—for Violet always chose dowdy things for her to wear, she wondered what she would say to him, if he chose to speak to her, that was. Which wasn't likely.

When she did see him, however, in Harrendene House's huge ballroom, she didn't want to speak to him, for the anguish which she had felt so strongly at their last meeting swept over her once again. It was really hate that she felt for him, she told herself, untruthfully.

Somehow it made it worse that, as usual, he looked so absolutely splendid in evening dress. The black and white
of it suited him to perfection. By her behaviour Violet thought so, too. The only thing to do was find a dark corner to sit in, surrounded by the companions of other young girls who, unlike Violet, were prepared to push the charms of their charges at the eligible young men who made up so many of those present.

What a pity we don't live in the time of Henry VIII, before the Reformation, Dinah thought morosely, and then Violet could shut me away in a nunnery and forget about me. Not that I should have liked that. But I might as well be in a nunnery for all the notice that Mr Grant, or anyone else, takes of me.

Unknowingly, she wronged him. Cobie had seen Violet and her husband enter, Dinah walking a little behind them, and had been shocked by her appearance. Her dress was so unsuitable; it hid what few charms she possessed, and being designed to make her look younger than she was, emphasised her coltishness even more.

He knew why she was dressed so badly, and looked as she did, quite ill, her face white, her eyes enormous, with pale blue shadows under them, and her manner so defeated. It was the bitch-goddess Violet Kenilworth at her unsavoury work. All the world knew of the great disparity of age between herself and Dinah, and to reduce the toll of her own years she was making Dinah look more babyish than she was—and extinguishing her in the process.

While Cobie laughed and talked to Violet who, in her usual proprietory fashion, monopolised him, he watched Dinah, hidden in her corner. He registered the sad sag of her head, the weary droop of her shoulders, the fact that she sat alone, and that Violet made no effort to find her partners.

It was plain that the plan which he had been considering
for several days, ‘the matter of Dinah Freville' he had dubbed it, needed to be put into operation once tonight's business was over. To have too many irons in the fire at the same time was not a good thing.

Arthur Winthrop came over to ask a favour of him: Susanna was one of a party of women who were entertaining the Princess of Wales. The Prince was already installed in a salon off the ballroom, surrounded by his courtiers, friends and assorted toadies who accompanied him everywhere.

BOOK: The Dollar Prince's Wife
4.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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