The Scandal at 23 Mount Street (An Angela Marchmont Mystery Book 9)

BOOK: The Scandal at 23 Mount Street (An Angela Marchmont Mystery Book 9)
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright

The Scandal at 23 Mount Street

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

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Also by Clara Benson

THE SCANDAL AT 23 MOUNT STREET

Clara Benson

Copyright

 

© 2015 Clara Benson

All rights reserved

 

The right of Clara Benson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988

 

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author

 

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed upon the subsequent purchaser

 

clarabenson.com

 

Cover design by Yang Liu
waterpaperink.com

The Scandal at 23 Mount Street

 

When an unwelcome figure from her past turns up unexpectedly, Angela Marchmont has no idea that she is about to become the most notorious woman in Britain. Forced to reveal secrets she has kept to herself for many years and which she had thought were safely buried, Angela faces a fight for her very life which she looks certain to lose without the help of the man she loves. But what hope does she have when the one man who can save her is the one man who has every reason to abandon her to her fate?

ONE

It was an ordinary sort of week to begin with. November had set in, and with it a series of dull, overcast days that seemed deliberately calculated to cast a pall over everyone’s mood—not least that of Mrs. Angela Marchmont, who, owing to one or two circumstances that could not have been foreseen, found herself stuck at home for several days with nothing to do. The previous Saturday she had been due to visit some friends, but the sudden death of the host’s great-aunt had put paid to that. On Monday she had been engaged to dine with an old friend whom she had not seen in some years, but this had had to be postponed when Eva’s husband fell ill (had Eva been unwell herself, she would have dragged herself up to London come what may, she assured Angela, but Harold was simply unable to look after himself and could not do without her). In addition to this, Angela’s maid, Marthe, was fretting over news of her mother in France, who was prone to depressive fits and had shut herself in her bedroom, vowing never to come out again. Naturally, Angela could not refuse Marthe’s request to take a few days’ leave to visit her family, but the seasonal gloom had affected her spirits and she was forced to exercise all her good sense in order to suppress the irrational suspicion that everyone had suddenly decided in concert to cause her inconvenience.

Had she known what was about to befall her, Angela might have followed Marthe’s mother’s example and hidden herself away somewhere, that it might all be avoided, for despite all her best efforts, her life was about to be thrown into the spotlight in the most unwelcome way. In recent years, her involvement in several famous and sensational murder cases had given her a certain amount of celebrity, and although she had never actively sought fame, she had learned to tolerate it and even enjoy it with distant amusement. Still, for the most part she preferred to live privately—for even the best of us have secrets we do not wish to share with the world—and so, had she known that she was about to become the most notorious woman in Britain, and that all her carefully-constructed walls were about to be brought down and her personal actions be exposed to the full, disapproving glare of public judgment, she might well have acted differently that day and saved herself one worry, at least. Of course, like anyone else, Angela had made her fair share of mistakes in life, and if she had a particular fault it was a complacent—perhaps bordering on self-satisfied—belief that she could bury those mistakes, and thus never have to account for them, merely by pretending that they had never happened. Nonetheless, while tea-shops and public houses buzzed with the story and every man and his wife pored over the morning newspaper, eager for each new development in the case, her many well-wishers did tend to agree that it was rather harsh on her to have to pay for her sins
all
at once. That was the nature of justice, however: it pressed on blindly, oblivious to the effect it might have on those in its path as it pursued its ultimate ends. Long after the event, Angela could not help but torment herself, wondering how things might have turned out had she not made the choices she did, but each time she was forced to the inescapable conclusion that had things been otherwise she would most likely be dead herself now, her name a nine days’ wonder in the newspapers, soon to be forgotten. Had she done right, though, in accepting the favour offered her and agreeing to that silent bargain which exchanged her life for that of another, however wicked he had proved to be? She did not know, although her guilty conscience would whisper the answer in her ear for a long time to come.

All this was still in the future, however, and far from Angela’s mind on Wednesday, as she returned to her flat in Mount Street after a short trip to Regent Street to buy a gift for a friend. To add insult to the injuries of the week, she had given her driver, William, the afternoon off, whereupon it had immediately begun to rain. It started as a mere drizzle, and so she set off boldly on her quest without an umbrella, but by the time she was ready to return, the drizzle had become a deluge and Angela was forced to take a taxi home. The cab drew up opposite the flat and she jumped out and hurried across the road as fast as she could before her parcels got wet. At the outer door of the building she fumbled in her handbag for her keys, but in her haste dropped them in a puddle. Uttering an exclamation of impatience, she was about to bend down and retrieve them when she was forestalled by a man who had been standing in the shelter of the doorway, and who hastened forward to pick them up for her. As she took them from him she caught sight of a pair of deep blue eyes and started in surprise. Down went the keys into the puddle again, this time joined by the parcels.

‘Bother!’ she exclaimed involuntarily.

‘I think they’ll be all right,’ said Edgar Valencourt, examining one of the unfortunate packages. ‘Look, this one’s only a little bit wet at the end.’

‘I was
not
referring to the parcels,’ said Angela, whose heart had set up the most ridiculous flutter.

‘Well, that’s a fine welcome, I must say,’ he said.

‘What on earth are you doing here?’ she hissed, glancing about, for it did not do to chat idly to wanted criminals in a Mayfair street. ‘You said you wouldn’t do this.’

‘Yes, I did, didn’t I?’ he said. ‘I don’t know why you persist in believing me.’

‘Nor do I,’ she said dryly. She was privately aghast at how her spirits had soared at the sight of him, but there was no use in struggling against it, for there he was, just as she remembered him, smiling as though he were genuinely happy to see her, and try as she might she was unable to arrange her features into the disapproving frown that was required in the circumstances, but could manage only a smile in return.

‘That’s better,’ he said. ‘A cross face doesn’t suit you.’

‘Ought you to be here?’ she said. ‘Are you safe?’

‘As safe as anywhere.’

‘Well, I suppose you’d better come in,’ she said after a moment. ‘This weather is filthy.’

‘I knew you wouldn’t leave me out in the rain,’ he said.

Upstairs, Marthe was bustling about in preparation for her imminent departure. Her eyes gleamed briefly when she saw Valencourt, but her training held good and she said nothing.

‘Marthe, you remember Mr.—’ said Angela, and hesitated. ‘By the way, what are you calling yourself this week?’ she inquired sweetly.

‘Smart will do,’ he said.

‘Mr. Smart, then.’

‘But of course,’ said Marthe. ‘
Bonjour, monsieur
.’

‘I don’t know how you keep up with all these names of yours,’ said Angela. Her eye fell on an enormous display of white and pink lilies that stood on a nearby table and filled the air with a delicate scent. ‘Have these just arrived, Marthe?’ she said. ‘Who sent them?’

‘M. Etheridge,’ said Marthe. ‘They came an hour ago.’

‘Oh, how kind of him,’ said Angela. ‘I must send him a note of thanks.’

‘Mr. Etheridge?’ said Valencourt, after Marthe had retired discreetly.

Angela darted him a wicked glance.

‘He lives in the flat downstairs, but he has a place in Surrey with a hothouse. He likes to send me flowers sometimes,’ she said.

‘I see.’

‘He’s a darling,’ said Angela.

‘I’m sure he is,’ said Valencourt, not taking his eyes off her.

Angela relented.

‘I think he’s about eighty-four,’ she said.

‘Then he ought to know better, at his age,’ said Valencourt. He moved a little closer to her and she retreated slightly. There was a pause. At that moment the telephone-bell rang, rather to Angela’s relief. Marthe answered it.

‘It is Mrs. Jameson,’ she said.

‘Do you mind awfully?’ said Angela, and took the instrument without waiting for a reply from him. She was on the telephone for some little time—without, probably, saying anything that made much sense, for her mind was elsewhere—and when she finally hung up she turned to find Edgar Valencourt and Marthe talking in French like old friends about a place in France they both knew well. Marthe bobbed and scurried away immediately when she saw her mistress’s face.

‘That was Kathie Jameson,’ said Angela. ‘She’s a sort of relation of mine. You might recognize the name. A couple of weeks ago she married Inspector Jameson. You know, from Scotland Yard.’

‘How splendid. I hope they’ll be very happy,’ said Valencourt politely.

‘I’m sure they will,’ said Angela. For some reason she was feeling a little giddy, and the mischief had come upon her, so she beamed angelically and said, ‘You can’t imagine what a comfort it will be to have a policeman in the family. There are so many criminals about these days that one can’t be too careful, don’t you think?’

His mouth twitched in amusement.

‘You appear to be developing a most unbecoming sense of humour, Mrs. Marchmont,’ he said.

‘Do I? It must be the weather,’ said Angela.

She moved further away from him and placed herself deliberately so that there was a table between them. She was quite determined not to make a fool of herself over him again as she had in Italy, and flattered herself that she was doing well so far. Of course, he was perfectly aware that he was safe from her—that she would never give him away to the police, but that was as far as it went.

‘So then, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?’ she went on with great formality.

‘Oh, nothing in particular,’ he said. ‘I just happened to be passing and thought I’d drop in.’

‘Have you been in Italy all this time?’ she said.

‘Not all the time, no,’ he said. ‘I tend to move around, rather. I spent most of the summer there, though, recovering from an injury. You might remember it.’

‘Of course I do,’ said Angela, softening a little. ‘Are you all right now?’

‘Quite all right, thank you. Just the occasional twinge whenever a woman points a gun at me.’

That made her laugh.

‘I don’t suppose that happens
very
often, even to you,’ she said.

‘Not too often, no,’ he said.

They smiled at one another for a moment, then he began, ‘As a matter of fact, there
was
something—’ but got no further before the doorbell rang loudly.

‘Whoever can that be?’ said Angela, as Marthe emerged and squinted through the peep-hole. ‘Someone must have let them in downstairs.’

‘It is M. Pilkington-Soames,’ said Marthe, with a glance at Valencourt.

‘Freddy! Don’t let him in!’ said Angela in a sudden panic, but it was too late, for the ring was followed by a knock and a muffled voice, which called:

BOOK: The Scandal at 23 Mount Street (An Angela Marchmont Mystery Book 9)
3.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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