Part Four: The Methods of Murder Chapter Forty-Three


Matthew didn't say anything for a few seconds. Then: "Go on."

Kirby reached into a pocket and withdrew a white handkerchief, with which he began to blot the beads of sweat from his forehead. "I didn't receive Mother's letter until November. I'd been in Scotland, working on a case. I had other commitments as well. I'd been planning on being married...to a wonderful young woman, the following summer. I was going to write Father and Mother, to let them know. Then I got the post. I dropped everything, of course. I shut my office, I told Margaret I'd be gone for a while, that my family needed me. a few months, I said. Then we'd pick our wedding plans up where we'd left them." He began to carefully fold the handkerchief into a tight square.

"When I got the letter from Mother...I knew there had to be some other explanation," Kirby said. "I knew Father would never have made an error like that. No. He was a professional. He was clean. But if he hadn't made an error...then how was it done, and whyi" He was silent, turning something over and over in his mind like a puzzle to be viewed from all sides.

"I had remembered...once when I visited them, a few years after they'd moved to Philadelphia...Father asked me my opinion of whether he should take the business into New York or not. There were two brothers who owned the White Stag tavern. They had plans for one to move to New York and open a second White Stag. In their research, they discovered that the brokerage prices commanded by Mr. Pennford Deverick were very much higher for the very same items that Father sold. They wanted him to consider expansion into the New York market, and they would wish to invest some money in the enterprise if he did. They were sure that Father could undercut Deverick's prices and still make a profit. So...he asked me that day what I thought."

When Kirby hesitated, Matthew asked, "What was your advicei"

"Not to go. I just didn't think the extra work would be worth it. They had a grand life, why should they disturb what they hadi Besides, Father was never driven by greed. Far from it. He simply enjoyed the management process. I left him still considering the opportunity, but I don't think he was going to do it. I don't think Mother wanted it, either."

Matthew nodded. "So when you read in your mother's letter about the incident taking place at the White Stag, what did you thinki"

"That it was very suspicious. Why that tavern, of all the othersi Why only that taverni It would be called, I suppose, killing two birds with one stone."

Matthew thought Deverick's zeal for destruction might indeed have been set flaming by the news that an old rival was moving into his territory, whether it was only rumor heard round the New York taverns or not.

"When I got to Portsmouth, it was the height of the winter storm season," Kirby said, blinking up at the lantern that hung from the ceiling beam. "My departure was to be delayed for at least three weeks. I think I...had my own breakdown then. My first one. Knowing I had to do something, but could do nothing. I went to London. and I went with a vengeance, for as London is the center of the world, so it is the center of the underworld. Deverick had his motive, yet he needed the advice and aid of professionals. a contract might have been drawn up. Would anyone in London have any informationi I decided to find out.

"I visited my attorney friends first, for names of contacts. That led me nowhere. Then...I suppose I might say I threw myself with a fervor into my research. My second breakdown, perhaps." Kirby's eyes glistened, but they were dead. "I went through every back alley ginpot I could find. I gambled, threw away money, drank with the reptiles, pegged the whores, and winnowed into every little shitpot that opened up for me. Suddenly two weeks had passed, and I was bearded and filthy and the lice were jumping out of my hair." He brought up a wicked smile. "and do you know who was born, during that timei andrew Kippering himself. andrew for Father's hometown, Kippering for the tailor at the end of my street. I looked into the grimy glass of a half-pence whorehouse and lo and behold-there he stood, grinning back. Ready to get to work. To rub shoulders with the thugs and thieves, and announce that money was to be had for information. a lot of money."

"I almost got my head bashed in outside the Black Tail Tavern," Kirby said. "almost was caught by a band of men and would've been beaten to death in an alley if I hadn't been carrying a knife. Suddenly everything came back. The movement of the arm, the quickness of the strike. Even the smell of blood. I cut one right across the face, pretty as you please. The second one I got in the ribs. Then they ran, and the next night the Blind Boy found me."

"The Blind Boyi"

"about thirteen or fourteen years old. Thin as a pole, but well-dressed. Dark glasses. Very articulate. Had a cane. Was he blind or noti I don't know, but his face was terribly scarred. a whore named Tender Judy brought him to my table. Said he could find out things, but it would cost me. Said he would tell me once, and I could ask no questions. Said I would never try to find him again, afterward, or it would be my death. I believed him."

"a reasonable assumption," Matthew agreed.

"I paid him half up front. Then he asked me what I wanted to know. I'd been thinking what to ask. It was very important, with these people, that you phrased things correctly. I said, 'I want to know about the contract on Nicholas Swanscott. How was it done, and who did iti' He said he had no idea what I was talking about, but he would make some inquiries."

"and he delivered the informationi" Matthew prodded.

"I was walking back to my room two nights later," Kirby said. "Long after midnight. I was nearly drunk on some filth or another. Suddenly there was a man beside me. Not a big man, but a tough gent who could handle himself. He seized my elbow before I could turn around and he said right up in my ear, 'Come with me. No noise.' I thought I was going to be killed, but we didn't have far to go. a few streets, a few alleys. I was pushed into a little room with yellow wallpaper, the Blind Boy was sitting on a throne of rags, and he beckoned me nearer. 'Now listen,' he said. 'No questions. after this, we are strangers. after this, you will die if you go asking anymore. Do you understandi'

"I said I did," Kirby related. "Then he said, 'The contract was paid for by a man named Deverick, who came from New York to have a problem solved. The problem being: how to destroy someone and their business at the same time, yet leave no tracei' Done with poison, he said. The poison had been made by a New York doctor. Goodwin or Godwin, he thought was the name. There was something on the doctor in London, having to do with a prostitute and a dead baby. The name he got was 'Susan.' an abortion gone bad, he said. Local talent for the job was provided by someone named ausley. Two crows, a screever, and a lugger."

"Pardoni" Matthew asked.

Kirby translated: "Two lookouts, a forger, and someone to carry the materials."

"Oh. Yes." Matthew nodded, as if he'd known these street terms all along. "Go ahead."

"While the crows watched for constables, the others opened the lock with a key provided by an inside-man. a cask was chosen, opened, and the poison poured in. The cask was closed with a soft mallet. The screever had a blank paper inspection seal, which was forged on the spot and fixed to the cask with red wax. The inside-man had told them the correct color to use. Then the cask was returned to its place, the team got out, relocked the door, and it was all over in a few minutes."

"and they didn't care how many people would be killedi"

Kirby didn't bother to answer. "The Blind Boy said there was one loose end to the contract, which the hornpipe-a criminal attorney, if you will-suggested correcting. He said it involved Swanscott's wife. Her name, he said, was Emily."

Matthew waited.

"The Blind Boy told me," Kirby said, "that this hornpipe considered that Mr. Swanscott would likely go to prison for many years. Would probably die there. But if the wife decided to rebuild the business, as a gesture of faith, she should promptly meet with an accident. If the contract called for destruction of the business, then destruction it should be. Signed, sealed, and delivered."

"Very civilized of them." Matthew was beginning to understand why Kirby had so desperately wanted to keep his mother hidden away.

"They have their own code." Kirby stared intently at Matthew for a few seconds before he went on. "The Blind Boy said he didn't know me-except that he knew my name was andrew Kippering and I was a high ball playing low. He said, 'I'd like to give you some advice, sir. Go home where you belong. This contract was underwritten by the professor, and your interest in it disturbs me. Now, if you'll pay me my money, you'll be shown back to your door.'"

"Underwritten by the professori" Matthew frowned. "Whyi"

"I didn't know who the Blind Boy meant. I asked Tender Judy about it, later. She told me as much as she knew, which was not very much. a shadow here, a shadow there. a black carriage passing in the fog. Rumors and whispers, and a great amount of fear. Professor Fell, first name unknown. age and description, unknown. But whoever he is, he had a hand in the ruin of my father. and I feared beyond anything that if Mother got well...if she came back to herself...someone might talk her into hiring managers and rebuilding the business again under the family name. So I did my best to prevent anyone from finding her, or to prevent anyone at that hospital from pursuing her identity. I didn't want her attracting unwanted attention." Kirby looked down at the ground, and Matthew could tell he was fighting a battle with the shame that must be festering in his soul. "I didn't want her to get better," he said softly. "To come out of her sleep. There's just pain waiting for her, when she wakes up."

"Not least of all, the fact that her son has murdered three men in the name of justice. Let me ask this: did you tell Mr. Primm what you'd found outi"

"No. Well...I did mention Pennford Deverick's name. I think I said...something about him being one of Father's fiercest competitors in London, and the fact that they'd had more than one public argument. I said it was peculiar, that Pennford Deverick now ruled New York's taverns only a hundred miles away, and this very suspect tragedy had destroyed my father. Primm didn't make any connection, and why should hei I had no proof whatsoever."

Matthew remembered Primm's declaration: I consider proof to be the alpha and omega of my profession. Difficult to argue with that. Matthew was also thinking about something Pollard had said. "Did you advise Primm to sell the businessi"

"I did, and the sooner the better. The money could go into the fund I'd set up for Mother. actually a buyer was already interested. I signed the papers before I left Philadelphia."

"Who was the buyeri"

"Culley Ives. He was one of the two managers. Had worked with Father for many years. We only got shillings on the pound, but I was satisfied with it."

"Ives," Matthew repeated.

Matthew recalled Pollard saying that Deverick had bought a Philadelphia brokerage firm in 1698. To Matthew's question of Who owned the firm before Mr. Deverick bought iti Pollard had answered It was a man named Ives, who is still employed by the Deverick company as manager there. So what does that tell youi

Matthew said, "You might wish-or perhaps not-to know that Mr. Ives probably paid those shillings on the pound in money given to him from Pennford Deverick's pocket. I wouldn't doubt that Mr. Ives might have been the inside-man."

a hideous smile slowly, terribly, spread across Kirby's mouth and stretched it until Matthew thought the man might scream. But instead Kirby only said, quietly, "To the victor go the spoils. Isn't that righti You see how tough I've becomei How...shall I say...resigned to fatei"

"Obsessed might be more accurate." This kettle and pot were both black, Matthew thought grimly. To understand the depths of obsession all he had to do was think back two weeks, when he was nearly insane that Eben ausley had escaped justice for his crimes against the orphans. He shook it off. "I presume you found it difficult to return to being Trevor Kirby when you'd had a taste of andrew Kippering's lifei and you decided to find a position here, to better stalk your preyi What did you do, go back to London and buy screeved...um...forged documents to present yourself as a lower ball than you arei"

"Exactly that," came the reply. "I came here to kill those three men, and to speak Father's name in their ears before I did it. I was very fortunate indeed to get a position with Pollard. Even if it was a fraction of the money and work I was used to. Pollard wanted someone who was a brash gadfly, and perhaps a little dull. I could tell that at once. He wanted a tavern partner. More for show than work, and I'd made up a story about my past sins that I could tell intrigued him. You see, Joplin needs the help, but he wants to run all the horses. But attorney to Deverick and ausley! I'd be able to mark their comings and goings with ease."

"Dr. Godwin, tooi" Matthew asked. "You began spending time at Polly Blossom's to mark his...if I may say...comings and goingsi"

"That's right. I waited for the moment, until it came."

"and the night you killed Devericki The same night that Grace Hester became so illi I presume, since you were the go-between, that the prostitute sent out to find you searched your usual haunts with no success, since you were probably down here removing your black clothing, and she wound up having to go fetch Dr. Vanderbrocken himselfi and she went with him and stood at the corner outside the reverend's house while Dr. Vanderbrocken went to the doori"

Kirby shrugged. "You know, you had a part in the deaths of Deverick and ausley."

"Mei Howi"

The lawyer made a noise between a grunt and a laugh. "When you stood up before Lord Cornbury and suggested more and better-trained constables. I was afraid he would agree, and so I thought I'd best hurry and finish the job."

Matthew almost said Glad to be of service.

Kirby spoke. "Would you like to see the Maskeri"

"Siri"

"The Masker," Kirby repeated, and just that quickly he slipped out of the light and into the gloomy fringes.

Matthew glanced nervously back to see how far the stairs were. He heard a sliding movement off to the side amid the cellar's boxes and wreckage. Then he jumped and his nerves jangled as something metal crunched into brick. There was the noise of what might have been bricks being moved aside. Then, seconds later, a brown canvas bag came flying through the air and landed with a dusty thump in front of Matthew's shoes.

"He's in there," came Kirby's voice, and then Kirby himself reentered the light's realm.

Matthew leaned carefully down and looked into the bag. It contained black clothing-one cloak, if not more, and a hooded coat. a woolen cap. a pair of black gloves. No, two pair. He could smell the heavy odor of dried gore. a smaller object caught his attention. When he picked it up by its wire-wrapped grip, he found the thing surprisingly heavy. Its business end was a tongue-shaped piece of black leather that felt as if it had a fist of lead sewn up within. The gentleman executioner had not forgotten his slaughterhouse system: first the blow to the temple, then the knife to the throat.

He was aware, very suddenly and joltingly, of Kirby's boots in the dirt beside him. When Matthew looked up, Kirby was holding the evil little knife with its hooked blade.

To his credit Matthew did not cry out, though he did feel the blood drain from his face. He got to his feet, watching for the strike and wondering which way to dodge it when it came.

Kirby turned the knife around and offered him the ebony leather handle. "It's very sharp," he said. "Easy to cut yourself." When Matthew wouldn't touch the thing, Kirby dropped it back amid the other items in the bag. It was then that Matthew realized Kirby was also holding the strange pair of hammered-brass fireplace tongs. "Oh." Kirby held the tongs up for Matthew's inspection of the chiseled ends. "You drive these into the cracks between two loose bricks that I found one day. Pull out the first brick and a few more and you've got yourself a nice hidey-hole. I couldn't go home wearing bloody clothes, could Ii Not with Mary Belovaire watching me. I found the two cloaks and pairs of gloves at the bottom of that old trunk. They fit me fairly well. The blackjack came off a sailor willing to part with it. The knife I bought from a higgler in New Jersey. You know, you nearly caught me that night. If you hadn't been chasing me and I hadn't been trying to hold on to the notebook, I wouldn't have left that blood smear on the door."

Matthew held up the notebook. "Tell me about this."

"You tell me about it."

The front door suddenly opened upstairs. Both men were silent. The door closed, and footsteps could be heard ascending the stairs. Then a voice, calling, "andrewi andrew, are you herei"

"Joplin," Kirby said to Matthew, keeping his own volume low.

Pollard came back down the stairs. The front door opened and closed again.

"Poor fellow. an insecure boy, actually. He's wanting a pal at the bar," said Kirby. "You know, the only one who really works around here is Bryan. We both dump our papers on him. Joplin told me that Bryan's very unhappy if he's not burdened down. Now: the notebook. You saw the page I markedi"

"I did. I appreciate your rough treatment that night, by the way."

"Nothing personal. I was planning on leaving the package at Grigsby's door. I saw you by the corner lamp on Wall Street, so I had to move quickly. On that particular page, those are the names of orphans. am I correcti"

"I believe so, yes."

"and the numbers beside themi any guessi"

"a code."

"Of course a code, idiot! Meaning whati" anger poured into the dead eyes. Even as the shade of what he'd been, Kirby was still a formidable and frightening presence. "Think, damn it! I've tried and failed, but if anyone can figure it out, it's you!"

Matthew opened the book to the page and held it under the lamplight. He scanned the numbers, back and forth.

"This is the problem I hoped you'd solve for me, Matthew," the lawyer said. "I saw ausley scribbling in that notebook time and again, and I thought I had to get hold of it in search of a clue. I know what parts Godwin, Deverick, and ausley acted in this, but who put the play togetheri Professor Felli One of his compatriotsi It wasn't ausley, he wasn't smart enough. But it had to be someone here, on this side of the pond. a headmaster, if you will."

"Headmaster," Matthew repeated, looking up from the page. Something had clicked into place.

"I was going to say, that night, that Eben ausley is selling his orphans to the underworld. Not all of them, but some. Maybe some who are talented in ways this headmaster can use. Can forge and shape, as he pleases. Look at that word Chapel there. Could that be a namei"

"Yes," Matthew said, but he was thinking furiously. Headmaster. Trade school. "It is a name." Some men would come now and again and give us tests, John Five had said. Doin' numbers, copyin' script, figurin' out puzzles and such. "Simon Chapel." Wantin' to know all about us and our lives and so on. "I think...these might be..." What we wanted for the future.

"Whati" Kirby asked, closer now.

a man even came a couple of times to see if any of the older boys knew how to use a sword or a dagger.

"I think," Matthew said, and then he stopped himself. "I believe," he corrected, "that these are grades. I believe Eben ausley was assigning grades to some of the boys. Maybe...for special talents, or something as mundane as how well they could understand and carry out orders. Many of the orphans would have come from violent circumstances, like John Five. Maybe they were graded on cruelty, or the ability to fight. Maybe how well-suited they might be for a life of crime. and here...this means Rejected. Either by ausley, who had the first choice of whom to present to Chapel, or by Chapel himself later on." He thought of Silas. Silas with the quick hands and light touch. Silas Oakley, who was presented with high grades to the headmaster Simon Chapel on the twentieth of June, hardly more than a month ago.

I was jus' practisin', Silas had said.

For what future purposei Surely not just shilling crimes; those were beneath Professor Fell. No, these would be more monumental, more grandiose in their evil. The theft of a key to a box where a diplomatic pouch lay, with the fate of kings and nations in the balancei The theft of business letters, or of guarded seals of state, or of perfume-touched messages between lovers that might lead to scandals, executions, and the overnight collapse of an empire...if the right price was not paid for the returni

This contract was underwritten by the professor, the Blind Boy had told Kirby.

Because, Matthew thought, the professor was interested in seeing the orphans in action.

a new world, Mrs. Herrald had said, calls for new names.

Not just new names, Matthew realized.

New blood.

Kirby was waiting. Matthew closed the notebook. He said with grim certainty, "Professor Fell is financing a school for criminals. North along the Hudson, about fifteen miles from here. It's run by a man named Simon Chapel. I don't think he's the professor. I may be wrong. But what better place to find potential 'students' than an orphanage full of boys who've already known hardship and violencei Diamonds in the rough, wouldn't you sayi"

Kirby nodded. The light of understanding had also dawned on him, though his actions had doomed him to a prison's darkness.

Matthew drew himself up tall. again, he marked the distance between where he stood and the stairs. "I'm going to take this notebook to City Hall," he said, in a voice that fortunately did not betray his gut-clenched fear. "I'm going to give it to Lillehorne, and I'm going to tell him everything." He hesitated, while that sank into the lawyer's blood-fevered brain. The only thing that moved about Kirby was a quick twitch of the mouth. "I'd like you to come with me."

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