She was quiet for a moment. “Even the body found in the crate?” I nodded. “Did he explain why that victim was different from the others?”
I focused on the sleeve of her dressing gown, twisting the fabric at her wrists. Perhaps it was the wrong time to discuss stressful topics. She’d just woken up after a solid twenty-four hours of being unconscious. I truly was an idiot who knew nothing of people.
“Thomas?” she asked, her voice soft. “I’m all right. You don’t have to treat me as if I’m made of porcelain now.”
As if she wasn’t the bravest or strongest person I knew. “It’s not you,” I said, letting go of a sigh. It was never the right time to discuss murder, but Audrey Rose could handle what I was about to say next. Even if I wasn’t quite ready to. “When we asked Andreas about that crime, he claimed to have no knowledge of it. He’s in the brig until detective-inspectors come to fetch him. They’re not sure where he’ll face trial yet, since most of his crimes occurred at sea. We may need to return to England.”
She stared at me like she couldn’t quite wrap her mind around that complication. Though perhaps she was starting to see the same pattern emerge that I was. “But why wouldn’t he have confessed to—”
“Your uncle and I believe it’s possible there might have been a second killer on board,” I said, laying it out with swift precision. Sometimes a clean cut was the kindest. “Passengers have already begun disembarking, so if Andreas didn’t commit that murder, then—”
“Then we just delivered a Ripper-inspired murderer to America.”
Her eyes grew wide as the realization clicked into place. Neither one of us spoke. I could only imagine the thoughts running through her mind, the fears. The memories regarding her brother that she was trying so hard to escape from. I’d spent the better part of the last few hours trying to find another potential scenario but had failed.
In fact, the more I contemplated the murder scenes, the more I homed in on the details, it became startlingly clear that that was precisely what happened. I had little doubt that an American Ripper was stalking the streets of New York this very moment.
“For now,” I said, “let’s hope we’re wrong and Andreas was simply feeling uncooperative.”
Wadsworth broke out of her reverie and met my gaze. She knew it was a lie but didn’t press the issue. Perhaps we both wanted to stay lost in the world of pretend the Moonlight Carnival had brought into our lives. At least for now.
“Was he the one who stole the fabric?” she asked. “Or was it an unrelated crime?”
“He admitted to stealing it—apparently he’s a petty thief when he’s not murdering for revenge. It’s an old habit he brought with him from Bavaria. He used to steal clothes from people he’d tell fortunes to. One woman recognized a missing garment and reported it to police, which is why he left and joined the carnival.”
“Speaking of that… what of the Moonlight Carnival?” She hesitated a moment. “How are Mephistopheles and Houdini?”
“They both bid you farewell.” I was impressed by how smooth my voice sounded, though my heart was another matter. I kept my expression neutral as I inspected her for signs of disappointment. I personally believed Mephisto should be sent to the opposite end of the continent until he worked out his issues, but if she was upset by his absence… “Mephistopheles sends his apologies—and two tickets to their next show, free of charge.” Her grin was hard to decipher. “He and Houdini said we won’t want to miss what they’re working on, it’s going to be—”
“Spectacular?” she supplied, that same sardonic look upon her face. I had no idea if she was covering up any sadness, or if she was truly all right with the ringmaster’s swift departure, but I laughed anyway.
“For their sake, I hope so. They’ve got to find something to distract from the multiple murders committed by their famed fortune-teller. Though, knowing Mephisto, he’ll find a way to work with it. Infamy is a draw for most. We’re all fascinated by the macabre. Must be our dark, twisted human souls.”
“I’m glad it’s over,” she said. “I sincerely hope the families are at peace.”
I nodded, but she was lost to her private thoughts, leading me to wonder once more just how much she might have preferred to choose a different path for herself.
“Liza!” She jerked forward, wincing, then slumped back, jolting me out of my worries. “Where is she? Is she all right? Please, please tell me she’s alive. I cannot bear it.”
I motioned for her to lean forward and moved her pillows to better prop her up. I gently pushed her back, meeting no resistance from her as she lay against them. Some of the strain eased from the lines around her mouth. “She’s all right. Andreas drugged her and had her chained in his rooms. But she’s recovering. Much faster than you.”
She released a breath, slumping further against the pillows. “I’m not worried about me.”
Of course, she wasn’t. She never worried about herself. I counted to twenty. “But I am. There’s something else you should know… about your injury.” I would rather be raked over hot coals than deliver this news. I stared down at my useless hands. I’d been bound and unable to block that bloody knife. “You’ll be able to walk, though it’s possible you’ll have a permanent limp. There’s no way of determining how it will heal.”