Part Four: The Methods of Murder Chapter Forty-Nine
The doctors were waiting.
One stood composed and steady, the other nervously puffing his pipe. Who could tell what this would accomplishi Still, it had to be tried and both doctors were in accord.
The afternoon's golden light spilled through the open window. In her high-backed purple chair, the Queen of Bedlam-a small woman, fragile in her pink homegown-sat as she always did, viewing the garden without comment or change of expression from moment to moment.
Matthew Corbett walked into the room.
He was dressed suitably for the long ride from New York. The tan-colored breeches, white shirt, and stockings were brand-new. So too were his dark brown riding boots, fashioned for him by the shoemaker Bulliver Martin. It helped to have a good-paying job in New York. alas, he'd been unable to collect the ten shillings from Esther Deverick, for even though he'd put an end to the Masker's career and the Clear Streets Decree, her condition of being the first informed had not been met. In this case, he would rather be alive than have ten shillings thrown on his grave.
'Twas a pity, then, that his discovery of the Masker's identity and the subsequent story as it appeared in the Earwig meant that Deverick's widow could not pack her belongings soon enough for the voyage back to England. The residents of Golden Hill of course appreciated money, but they did not appreciate a murder plot. at least, one that had been found out and so shamefully printed for all eyes both noble and common to read. So, farewell Mrs. Deverick! read a letter in the following week's Earwig.
Take your black gowns bought with even blacker money and depart from us so that we might breathe afresh once more, and that the honest business persons of this town might know what it means when greed and corruption are placed on a higher pedestal of value than the law of God, Queen, and Country.
I Beg Our Lord Grant You a Safe and Rapid Journey To Your Final Destination.
It was perhaps a bit harsh, and glided over the concept that Mrs. Deverick had been completely unaware of her husband's dark adventure. Yet also Mrs. Deverick had been the most ferocious wind at work trying to blow Reverend Wade from Trinity Church, so without her Machiavellian turbulence that particular ship failed to sail.
Of the long-suffering Robert Deverick, however, there was a different story.
Matthew walked to Mrs. Swanscott's side. He favored his left leg a bit, but the infection from the swordbite in his thigh had been caught and drained, the swelling subsided, and Dr. Vanderbrocken-who had decided a retirement of playing the violin and otherwise fiddling around did not suit his fiery nature-had declared him out of danger and whacked him on the back of his head for even causing him to consider the amputation saw. Of Matthew's other wounds, there was not much to speak of if one did not mention the large medical plaster that covered the nasty gash just beside his left eye, the second and third smaller plasters on both cheeks, sundry scuffs, scrapes, and bruises and the strong odor of comfrey-and-garlic ointment that lubricated the healing gashes beneath the plaster on his forehead. Would he bear any further battle scarsi The question asked of Vanderbrocken had caused the ill-tempered but highly efficient doctor to glare at Matthew over his spectacles and say, Do you wish to bear any further scars, young mani If you don't shut up about scars, keep the wounds clean, and use that ointment as I tell you, I'll give you the damnedest battle you ever fought.
The worst pain, if one wished to speak of pain, was not the sword cut on his right arm-for that was fortunately a shallow nick and not worth troubling-but underneath the comfrey-and-garlic damp bandage at his left shoulder where one of the hawks had torn through his coat cloth and shown in an instant how a cardinal could become nothing but a whirl of red feathers. It was also healing, but Vanderbrocken wanted to check that wound most often, as it was bone-deep and did cause Matthew to clench his teeth sometimes when it hurt like a screaming bastard usually in the middle of the night. The same arm, he knew so well, that Jack One Eye had thoroughly busted three years ago. He was going to be living on the starboard yet.
Otherwise, he was in tip-top health.
He had the fear, as he stood beside Mrs. Swanscott and she stared dreamily at the garden beyond, that this mass of plasters, scrapes, and bruises normally called "a face" would so frighten the woman that she might forever lose the power of speech. He glanced at the two doctors. Ramsendell nodded, while Hulzen looked anxiously on and pipesmoke billowed from his mouth.
Matthew said quietly, "Mrs. Swanscotti"
The Queen of Bedlam blinked, but she did not shift her gaze from the flowers and the butterflies. Matthew knew: it was all she had.
"Madam Emily Swanscotti" he repeated. "Can you hear mei"
She could. He knew it. Had her color changed, just slightlyi Had her skin tone begun to turn more pink, starting with the earsi
"Emilyi" Matthew asked, and gently put a hand on her shoulder.
Her head abruptly turned. Her eyes were wet, though still without true focus. Her mouth opened, but no words emerged. She closed her mouth, drew a long breath, and Matthew realized that somewhere inside her a voice of reason might be saying I will ask this question for the last time, the very last time, before I go away forever.
One tear rolled down her right cheek.
Her face was impassive. Regal. Her mouth opened, as if by superhuman effort of will.
"Young man," she said, in a strained whisper, "has the King's Reply yet arrivedi"
Matthew answered. "Yes, madam. Yes, it has."
and on that signal, Trevor Kirby entered his mother's room.
He had been made handsome again, in a gray suit with black pinstripes and a gray waistcoat. The suit of a successful lawyer, donated by the Herrald agency. The black, highly glossed shoes, likewise. Hudson Greathouse had thrown a fit, but Matthew was adamant and when Matthew got adamant time ceased to move on the silver watch he'd retrieved from Simon Chapel's battered body. The watch had also taken a licking, but...
It still worked.
With a bath, a shave, a hair trim, some decent food, and a few nights-and days-of relatively peaceful sleep, Trevor had lost some if not all of the gaunt fever in his eyes and the hollowed-out sharpness of his cheekbones. He looked to all the world, with his thick black hair combed, his fingernails clean, and his stride purposeful, as far from being a thrice-time murderer as Simon Chapel from being a university's headmaster.
Matthew saw Trevor's purposeful stride falter, in spite of what Trevor had planned to do when he came into the room. He stopped, a cloud of indecision passing across his face. His gaze caught Matthew's, and only Matthew would know the depth of shame and anguish that he saw displayed there in Trevor's eyes.
Mrs. Swanscott gave a gasp. She was looking past Matthew at the apparition. Her spine seemed to go rigid for a few seconds, as she clenched and released and clenched and released the armrests of her chair.
Then, slowly, she relinquished her throne and began to stand up.
as she stood, her eyes streamed the waters that had been dammed up by the mind's necessity, and she said, very clearly, "My boy."
Ramsendell and Hulzen stepped forward to catch her if she fell, for she trembled so violently all in the room feared it. Yet she stood steady and firm, like a willow that bends and bends but does not, never, ever, never does it break.
Without a word Trevor came the rest of the way, and Matthew always would remember that it was not far, but oh it was such a distance.
Son clasped mother, and mother laid her head against her son's shoulder and sobbed. Trevor wept also, unashamed and unafraid, and if any man had said there was not true blood between them, Matthew would have struck him down even if it had been ten times a Hudson Greathouse.
He had to turn away, go to the window, and stare out at the same garden that had been the lady's salvation. The Queen of Bedlam was no more; God rest her.
"I think," Ramsendell said as he came up beside Matthew, "that I'll go fetch everyone some tea."
In time, Trevor helped his mother into a chair beside the bed and pulled a second chair over for himself. He held both her hands between his, and listened while she dreamed awake.
"Your father," she said. "He's gone for a walk. Out just a little while." Fresh tears welled up. "He's been so worried lately, Trevor. It's because of...because of...the..." a hand floated like a butterfly to her forehead. "I can't...think very well today, Trevor. I'm so sorry."
"It's all right," Trevor answered, his voice infinitely kind and even more patient. "It's I who am sorry. For not coming when I said I would. Can you forgive mei"
"Forgive...youi" she asked, as if puzzled by the very thought. "What is there to forgivei You're here now. Oh...my throat is so dry. I can hardly speak, it's so dry."
"Tea," said Ramsendell, as he offered both of them a cup.
Mrs. Swanscott looked at the doctor and frowned, trying to make out who he was. Then she cast her gaze around the room and even Matthew could tell that some image in her mind was coming loose from its scroll. Unraveling, like a long spool of thread along a dark and unknown corridor. To find her way back to what she knew, she simply stared at Trevor and took a sip of tea. "Your father," she tried again, when the tea had gone down, "will be back soon. Out walking. a lot on his mind right now."
"Yes, I know," Trevor said.
"Look at you!" a smile came out, though the sadness in her face would not be banished. "How handsome you are! Tell me...how is Margareti"
"Margaret is fine," he decided to say.
"a beautiful day." She had turned her head so as to view the garden once more. "The baby is buried right out there. My little one. Oh." Something had struck her deeply, for she lowered her head and her shoulders sagged as if under a tremendous, crushing weight. She remained in that posture, as everyone in the room waited.
"Just stay as you are," Ramsendell suggested, keeping his voice casual.
Fifteen or twenty seconds crawled by. Then suddenly Mrs. Swanscott took a breath as if she had forgotten how to breathe, lifted her head, and smiled at her son, her eyes scorched and empty. "Your father is out walking. Soon, very soon. You can tell him all about Margaret. Oh." Matthew had thought it was another strike of anguish, but Mrs. Swanscott had just touched Trevor's knee. "Your sea voyage. The King's Reply. Was it a comfortable shipi"
"Yes, very comfortable."
"I'm glad. Now...you were coming to visit for...I can't think clearly, Trevor. Really. I'm getting so old they're going to have to put me in a box."
"Motheri" He took her teacup, put it aside, and again held both her hands in his. "Listen to me."
"all right," she said. Then, when he hesitated: "Well, what is iti"
"It's about me, Mother."
He leaned closer. "I'm not going to be able to stay very long. I have some business to attend to. Do you understandi"
"Businessi No, I don't understand business. Your father does. He..." She had obviously run onto the rocks again, for she went silent and staring for a few seconds before she recovered. "You are a lawyer," she told him. "Your father is very, very proud of you."
"and I am proud of our family," Trevor replied. "Of what we have accomplished together. We've come a long way, haven't wei"
"a long walki Yes, but he'll be back soon," she said.
Trevor looked at the two doctors for help, but they had become simply mute witnesses as had Matthew. It was up to Mrs. Swanscott's son to find the way home.
"Father may be late," he said.
She did not respond.
"Father...may not come back." He quickly added, "For a while, that is."
"He'll come back. Of course he'll come back."
"Mother...something may have happened. Something that was...very bad. an accident, perhaps. I don't know, I'm just saying. Something may have happened."
a finger went to Trevor's lips. "Shhhhh," she said. "You don't know. ask anyone. ask Gordon, he can tell you. When Nicholas goes for a walk, it's because...it's because he has to think. about a problem. Some problem that's troubling him. a trouble, that's it. He's gone for a walk because there's been..." She swallowed thickly. "There's been some trouble."
"Yes," Trevor said. "Do you know what the trouble isi"
"I don't...know. There's something...the wine was..." She shook her head, trying to cast a recollection away. "Nicholas has been very worried lately. The lawyer was here. That Mr. Primm. I think...he did stay for dinner, yes. He said..." Here she winced, as if she'd been physically struck, and it took her a little while and an effort to continue. "He said we have to prove it. Prove it. Very important, he said. To prove it." She suddenly looked at her hands and spread her fingers. "Oh my," she said. "My rings need to be cleaned."
"Motheri Look at me. Please."
She lowered her ringless hands and obeyed.
"Do you see that young man over therei" Trevor motioned toward Matthew.
"Yes." Mrs. Swanscott leaned closer to her son and whispered, "Speaking of accidents."
"His name is Matthew Corbett. He's a friend of mine, Mother. Now, as I said I'm going to be very busy here for a while. Very much...tied up. I won't be able to see you as often as I'd like. I may not be here again." He caught the ripple of dismay on her face. "I mean, for...who knows how longi"
"You're a very busy and successful lawyer," she said. "Every penny worth it."
"Matthew is going to come and see you, from time to time. He'll sit with you and listen if you want to talk, or talk if you'd like to listen, or read to you if you'd like that." He gave her hands a squeeze. "I want you to know," he went on, "that when Matthew is sitting beside you, I also am there. When he is reading to you, so I am, and when you speak to him I hear. Can you understand thati"
"I think you're a little brain-addled after that long trip." She pulled a hand free and gently touched his cheek. "But if it makes you happy, and you're so busy, then yes. Your father and I certainly won't mind if a friend of yours comes to the house from time to time. Will he want to stay for dinneri"
Matthew heard, and replied, "Yes, madam. I would."
"He's not a freeloader, is hei" This question was directed to Trevor in a whisper.
"No, he's quite respectable."
"Good. Well, he would be, wouldn't hei If he's a friend of yoursi" She stroked his cheek, as Matthew thought perhaps she had when he was a small, smart, and industrious boy and she saw all the possibilities ahead. "It is late, isn't iti" she asked.
"Late for me. I'm such an old dotty. But you...you have everything wonderful ahead of you. Your life, and Margaret. and children of your own, don't forget that. What you might become, Trevor. The man you shall grow to be. You know, your father's still a boy in so many ways. I think he shall never fully grow up. How can it be, that you and he are so alikei"
"I don't know," came the answer. "I only know I loved...I love Father, and I love you. and I shall always love the both of you, and hold you the highest in my heart."
"Oh!" She playfully cuffed his chin. "That's what all sons say, until they have sons of their own."
Trevor lowered his head for a moment. Matthew knew then why he could get away with hiding behind the mask of andrew Kippering who hid behind the Masker, because when Trevor looked up at his mother again he was smiling as if he had no care under God's heaven. He kissed her cheek, and she said, "I think I'd better go to bed. I'm so tired from all this."
all this was not explained, but Trevor helped her into bed as the two doctors watched. When Trevor got her situated and the covers pulled up, she smiled at him and held his hand. "Promise me," she said.
"Promise you whati"
"Promise me...you'll go to the kitchen and ask Priscilla to make you some chicken soup before you leave."
"Oh, I can't leave without a bowl of Priscilla's chicken soup, can Ii"
"Perish the thought," said Mrs. Swanscott, in a voice that was beginning to drift. "When I wake up," she said, "everything...will be so much brighter. Don't you thinki"
"Yes, Mother. Much brighter."
"One can only hope," Matthew heard her say, in nearly a whisper. Then she sighed, let go of Trevor's hand, and just that quickly she was gone.
Ramsendell and Hulzen came to the bedside, but only to check her breathing and make sure her chamberpot was within easy reach. Ramsendell rubbed the back of his neck. "a long way to go, but at least now we know in which direction."
Trevor was on his feet. "Will she ever recoveri I mean...back to how she wasi"
"Debatable. I really don't know. We shall have to begin slowly, of course. First of all, to let her understand where she is and who we are. Then we'll approach the loss of Mr. Swanscott, but only when we're sure she can accept it. That may be a long and difficult task for all of us. But I think it's a very good idea for Mr. Corbett to return and spend time with her. That's something I'm sure she'll look forward to and see as a...well...as a visit from you, since you put it so eloquently."
Trevor nodded. He had turned his face away from the bed, and regarded the doorway with grim resignation. at last he said, "all right. I'm ready." Before he left he kissed his sleeping mother on the forehead, and then he preceded Matthew from the room.
Outside, the wagon was waiting. Wearing a riding suit the color of cream with a bright red vest and a cream-hued tricorn accented by a red feather, Gardner Lillehorne was standing next to his horse at the hitching-post. Matthew's horse Dante was also tied at the post. Up on the wagon, the driver and a constable named Uriah Blount were ready to receive the prisoner. Lillehorne had the manacles and chains in hand. They jangled with heavy finality as Lillehorne walked to meet Trevor Kirby.
"May I ask that Mr. Kirby not be manacledi" Matthew asked when Trevor thrust his wrists out.
The small black eyes flashed. "and why not, siri Because your heart is bleedingi"
"No, because I think it's unnecessary. Mr. Kirby has vowed to cause no trouble. We should take him at his word."
"Oh, is that why he was manacled on the trip here, siri Because we took him at his wordi"
"Do me the favor," Matthew said flatly.
Lillehorne grunted and started to close the ponderous cuffs around Trevor's wrists, but then he scowled and stepped back with them still undone. "I have already done you the favor, as you put it, by allowing this highly unofficial visit to be made. The prisoner will get in the wagon. Mr. Blount, give him aid, please. and keep your pistol ready at all times."
"Thank you, Matthew," Trevor said before he climbed up to be guarded all the way back to New York. "Thank you also for agreeing to come see her. Let me ask this: do you think she'll be safei"
"I think so. There would be no profit in harming her, and no lesson to be made out of her for the underlings. So yes, I do think she'll be safe."
"Let's go, gentlemen." Lillehorne mounted his horse. "Or shall we all shuffle to the nearest tavern and weep in our beersi"
On the ride, as they followed the Philadelphia Pike, Matthew urged Dante up next to Lillehorne's horse. They were proceeding at a walk. "I do appreciate the favors," he said. "Both of them."
"I just wanted you to know that it meant a great deal to Trevor to see his-"
"What is this Trevor businessi are you his best friendi Don't you recollect that he killed three men, mangled the legs of a third, and might have killed a fourthi"
"I recollect that he turned himself in to you and saved my life. Best friend, perhaps not, but friend yes."
"You were knocked about up at that damned estate one too many times," Lillehorne said sourly.
Matthew held his tongue. Gardner Lillehorne had returned to his usual form. Of course it was understandable, since Lillehorne was in one muddy mire of a mess. The gaol was full, the cold room had been turned into a makeshift gaol, and the judicial fabric of New York was straining under the pull of so many criminals they could hardly be housed, much less fed. The entire scene was a merry disaster, with boys throwing slop buckets and pissing at whoever came near the bars. Two prisoners who seemed determined to piss and holler their way out of the cells were Bromfield and Carver, who'd been caught on their way to pick up Dippen Nack. The two hunters had run smack into Lillehorne, Kirby, and the constables, and Kirby had recognized Bromfield as the man who'd been with Pollard. a chase had ensued, with Bromfield's horse throwing him into a briar patch and Carver being stopped by a pistol ball past his ear.
add to the festivities the complications-and mysteries-of the files and papers that had been found in Chapel's office, and little wonder Lillehorne's temper had become a tinderbox. The prosecutors of Charles Town, Philadelphia, and Boston as well as a dozen other smaller localities had to be notified due to the staggering number of forged deeds and bills of sale, plans for arson, extortion, kidnapping, document theft, and even the counterfeiting of money that had either been already hatched or in their initial stages, using the services of those boys-and young men-who had previously passed through the criminal university and been placed in those towns waiting for a signal to act. It was a law officer's delirium, to have to deal with thirty or more acts of crime in the planning stages all up and down the atlantic coast while holding on to twenty-five sharkers some in need of medical attention. and some, like Chapel and Pollard, bound up in beds at the King Street hospital. So Matthew could pardon Lillehorne's foul disposition, as the situation truly was dire.
But, as Matthew considered, it was just his job to catch the criminals. It was Lillehorne's job to hold on to them.
"Gardner," Matthew said as their horses walked side-by-side, "I have an idea about that central constable's station I was talking about. You remember, at the meeting with Lord Cornburyi If this constable's station was built, it could be combined with a new gaol. a modern facility, with...say...twenty cells. With a kitchen also, so meals could be made on the premises. You know, there might be a small medical facility there as well, so wounded prisoners would not be taken away to-"
"Silence!" the man snapped. "What did you call mei"
"I said...what did you call mei"
Matthew thought back. "Gardner. Your name."
"No, sir. You are not allowed to call me by anything but High Constable Lillehorne or Mister Lillehorne. Certainly not...what you called me. How dare you! and you think because of...you know...what happened at that estate and my brief stumble that you can rise to my leveli" Lillehorne's immaculate black goatee actually twitched. "I am a public official, Corbett! You are a private citizen, not much more elevated than a clerk, if you really want to know my opinion, no matter how highly you think of yourself and this agency that will in the future be shown as a foolish and ridiculous endeavor! This is my town, Corbett! Do you hear mei It certainly doesn't belong to you or that lout Greathouse, and if you think you can weaken my authority and throw mud in my face in front of Lord Cornbury, then I'll vow before my honor that you'll have a fight on your hands! Do you heari a fight! and if you think Gardner Lillehorne has ever backed away from a fight, ever in his life, well then I'm here to look you right in the eye and tell you..."
Matthew let the high constable continue this loquacious rant, as if there were anything he might do to plug it up. He was sure Lillehorne would still be talking when he decided to listen again about five minutes from now. He was instead transfixed by the way the red feather jiggled and shook on Lillehorne's tricorn as the man raged on, and he wondered where were the hawks when you needed them.
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