Part One: The Masker Chapter Eight


"Welli Let's have it!"

Matthew had barely gotten through the door of City Hall before Marmaduke Grigsby collared him. The printmaster got alongside, step-for-step, but had to struggle to keep up with Matthew's long strides. "What did McCaggers thinki Did he say more about the murder weaponi"

"I think we should not turn this into a public forum," Matthew cautioned, for even at this hour long past midnight there were still a few men-refugees from the taverns, no doubt-gathered on the street puffing their pipes and discoursing on the callous quickness of the pale rider. Matthew kept walking and turned the corner onto the Broad Way with Grigsby at his elbow. Even as he did, he thought that he had quite a distance to travel on such a dark night, with the Masker now blooded by two killings. The street-corner lanterns had almost burned themselves out, and clouds had slipped in on a damp seabreeze to blank the moon. He slowed his pace. Though he carried his own meager light and occasionally could be seen a lantern here and there as another nocturnal citizen moved about, he decided it was best to have company after all.

"We should not let this linger," Grigsby said. "We should compare notes and come up with an article for the Earwig at once. I have other announcements and sundry items to fill up the sheet, but this by far merits the ink."

"I have a full day tomorrow. Today, I mean. Possibly I can help you on Thursday."

"I'll go ahead and write what I know to be true. You can go over the article and add your facts and impressions afterward. Then we'll get to work setting the type. You will help me with that, won't youi"

It was a tedious task that nearly blinded a person, since the type had to be set up backward. It could take-regardless of what he'd told Magistrate Powers was "an afternoon's work"-the whole of a day and well into the night. But the operation did require at least two men, one to "beat" the type with ink and the other to "pull" the lever that pressed the page.

"Yes, I'll help," Matthew agreed. He did like Mr. Grigsby and certainly admired his spirit. He also enjoyed having a hand in putting the sheet together, and being the first eyes to see some of the items Grigsby had written concerning drunken tavern brawls, fights between husbands and wives, chases of bulls and horses loose in the streets, who was seen dining at what eating-house in the company of whom, and the more mundane stories of what cargo had arrived and what was shipping out, what vessels were due in port from which destination, and the like.

"I knew I could count on you. We'll need to speak with Phillip Covey, of course, since I understand he was first on the scene. and you second there, how fortunate for me! For the sheet, I mean. Then perhaps we can get an official statement from Lillehorne. Improbable, but not impossible. You know, I think we might even gather a statement from Lord Cornbury, this being such a..."

Matthew had just about stopped listening at the phrase first on the scene. as Grigsby rambled on with his grandiose plans, Matthew was thinking about who had really been second and third on the scene. He recalled Reverend Wade saying to Dr. Vanderbrocken We have to leave him.

and go wherei

He decided this was an instance of what perhaps should not be shared with Grigsby, at least until he'd had a chance to hear what Lillehorne would learn about those two gentlemen, and where they'd been going that was more important than waiting for a constable at a murder scene. Had perhaps they heard or seen something that bore tellingi If so, they were poor witnesses to be such town pillars, for they'd surely disappeared this night.

"How did Mrs. Deverick take the newsi" Matthew asked as they neared Trinity Church.

"Stoically," remarked Grigsby. "But then, Esther Deverick has never been known to display emotion in public. She lifted her handkerchief and hid her eyes, but whether she shed a tear or not is up for question."

"I should like to interview Robert again. Surely he knows something about who might have wished his father harm. Or maybe he knows, but doesn't realize it."

"You're making the assumption, then, that the Masker"-Grigsby was aware of how his voice carried down the Broad Way's silent length, and he lessened the volume considerably-"that the Masker has a plan and a purposei How do you come to the conclusion that we don't simply have a lunatic in our midsti"

"I didn't say the killer wasn't a lunatic, or at least half-mad. It's the other half that concerns me and ought to equally concern Lillehorne. If two people have been murdered by the same hand, why shouldn't we expect a third, or a fourth, or...however many. But I'm not sure this is so random."

"Whyi Because of some information McCaggers gave youi"

Matthew could feel Grigsby tensed like a lightning rod. Once the printer's ink got in a man's veins, it ran there through all of life's ambitions. "I can get the final report through Magistrate Powers," he said, not wishing to comment on the possibility that Deverick might have been struck down in the process of recognizing a fellow gentleman or-God forbid-business leader. It had come to Matthew that the Masker might indeed wear his own mask of community service and industry fellowship, and that this "half-madness" had been festering into action for months if not years. "I think it best to wait for McCaggers' opinions before we-"

Both he and Grigsby were startled as a well-dressed man in a beige suit and tricorn hat came around the corner of King Street, quickly walked past them without a word, and disappeared into the further dark. Matthew had just had a few seconds to register that the man was even there, but he'd thought he recognized him as the individual who'd thrown apples so viciously into the face of Ebenezer Grooder.

What was more interesting, however, was that in the breeze of the man's passage Matthew imagined he caught the faint aroma of clove-scented cologne.

But then again, ausley's realm was only a block to the east, where the iron fence and gate stood around the building of leprous-colored walls on the corner of King and Smith. Whenever Matthew walked so near to that place, his skin crawled and his nostrils flared, so perhaps ausley's reek emanated from the yellow bricks here, or from the very air as it moved past the shuttered windows and darkened doors.

"Um...Matthew," Grigsby said, as he looked at the little flickering flame from the tallowcandle lamp on the cornerpost. "Please don't think me cowardly in my elder age, but...would you mind walking with me a little further oni" He correctly read Matthew's hesitation to leave his own straight route home. "I do have something important to ask of you."

Matthew wasn't certain what was important enough to get killed for, on an early morning when New York seemed not quite the familiar town it had been yesterday, but he did think that whoever the Masker was, the murder of Mr. Deverick might have been to him as much an aid to sated sleep as a hot toddy. "all right," he agreed.

Soon they were walking past the almshouse. Grigsby didn't speak, perhaps in deference to Matthew's history there, though of course he knew nothing of ausley's nocturnal punishments to his charges. Matthew looked neither right nor left, but kept his gaze fixed upon the middle distance. What had been one orphanage building in Matthew's time had now expanded to become three buildings, though still known collectively as the "almshouse." The eldest and largest still housed the boys of the streets, the castoffs of broken families, the victims of violence both by Indian and colonist hands, those who were sometimes nameless and bore no recollection of a past nor hope for a happy future. The second building kept orphaned girls and was watched over by a Madam Patterson and her staff, who'd come from England sponsored by Trinity Church for the purpose. The third building, the most recently constructed but still ugly for its gray brick and black slate roof, was under the jurisdiction of the chief prosecutor and contained those debtors and impoverished miscreants whose actions were not exactly criminal but who would be expected to work the blemishes off their records by physical labor on behalf of the town. This building, with its low squat structure and barred windows, had lately become better known as the "poorhouse" and was guaranteed to give a shiver down the spine of every working man and woman whose coins could not equal their credit when the bills came due.

Matthew allowed himself to look at the boys' orphanage building before they passed. It was completely dark and oppressive in its stillness, its wretched weight of bricks and mortar, its hidden secrets. and yet...and yet...did the faint shine of candlelight move past a bolted shutteri Was ausley on the move in there, crossing from room to room, listening to the breathing of the young and defenselessi Did he pause by a particular cot in a chamber and cast the dirty light down upon a sleeping facei and did his older "lieutenants," recruited to keep violent order among those who had known only brutality and suffering, turn their eyes away from that light and settle again into their own night's refugei

That kind of thinking led nowhere. Without witnesses, there was nothing. Yet still in the future someone might emerge from that place willing to reveal their torments to the law, and on that day Matthew might still see ausley hauled away in the back of a wagon.

They continued past more houses and business establishments, but in this area of town with the almshouse at their back and the harbor ahead of them by two long blocks there was a gray cast to the air even on the sunniest day, and night seemed darker still. Not far distant, to their right, was a slave cemetery; on their left was a paupers' field, the occupants identified-as much as possible-with painted names written on small wooden crosses. a Dutch farmer named Dircksen still worked two acres of corn just east of the paupers' graveyard, and his sturdy white brick farmhouse looked as if it might last the ages.

"My granddaughter is arriving soon," said Grigsby.

"Siri" Matthew wasn't sure he'd heard correctly.

"Beryl. My granddaughter. She's arriving...well, she should have been here three weeks ago. I've asked Reverend Wade to put up a prayer for me, on her behalf. More than one, actually. But of course everyone knows how errant those ship schedules can be."

"Yes, of course."

"They might have lost the wind for a time. They might have had problems with a sail, or a rudder. Everyone knows how difficult those voyages can be."

"Yes, very difficult," Matthew said.

"I expect her any day now. Which is what I wished to ask you."

"Siri"

"Well, it connects to what I wished to ask you. Beryl is very headstrong. Very much like her father. Full of life and energy and...really, too much for an elder statesman like myself to handle."

"I didn't know you had a granddaughter."

"Oh, yes. I have a second son, also, and two grandsons. They saw me off at the wharf, when I left to make my name in the colony. They're all fine and settled. But Beryl...she needs guidance, Matthew. She needs...how shall I say thisi...watching."

"Watchingi You mean, supervisioni"

"Yes, but...she also has a great appetite for...adventure, I suppose is the word."

Matthew was silent. They were getting close to Grigsby's house amid the grouping of houses and nautical wares establishments ahead.

"She's just turned nineteen. a difficult age, wouldn't you sayi" Grigsby continued when Matthew advanced no comment. "She did have a position, though. For eight weeks she was a school teacher in Marylebone, before the school burned down."

"Pardoni"

"No one was injured, thankfully. But Beryl has now found herself adrift. I don't mean that literally, of course. She assured me the ship she booked passage on has made the crossing six times, so I should think the captain knows the way. Wouldn't youi"

"I would," Matthew said.

"But it's her temperament I really worry about, Matthew. She wants to find a position here, and at my urging-and due to that very flattering article on Mrs. Brown's bakery in the last sheet-headmaster Brown has offered to give her a chance at the school. First she'll have to prove her ability and her seriousness to the task. So: are you up to iti"

Matthew was taken aback by the question and certainly didn't know what Grigsby was talking about. He smelled apples on the breeze. There was an orchard on a hill nearby, and a house whose elderly Dutch family refined the most wonderful cider in town. "Up to whati" he asked.

"Up to squiring Beryl about. You know. Ensuring she doesn't get into any trouble before the headmaster has a chance to make up his mind."

"Mei No, I don't think I'm suited for it."

Grigsby stopped walking and looked at him with such amazement that Matthew had to stop as well. "Don't think you're suited for iti Lord, boy! You're the only one I can think of who is suited for it! You're serious, no-nonsense, and down-to-earth. You're reliable and trustworthy. You don't get drunk and you don't go chasing every skirt you see."

Matthew gave a slight frown. "I didn't know I was so boring."

"No, I mean what I say. Your influence would be very good for Beryl. a steadying hand, from someone nearer her own age. Someone to set an example for her. You seei"

"an examplei Of absolute crushing boredomi Come on, I have to get home." He started walking in the direction of Grigsby's house again, and the printmaster quickly caught up with him. Or, to be more accurate, quickly caught up with the circle of lantern light.

"Think about it, won't youi Just to squire her around a bit, introduce her to some trustworthy people, make her feel comfortable herei"

"I would think that was the grandfather's job."

"It is! Yes of course it is! But sometimes, for all his good efforts, a grandfather is only an old fool."

"Your house," said Matthew, as they approached it. Grigsby's abode, flanked on one side by an anchorsmith's workshop and on the other by a roper's establishment, was just beyond the apple orchard and faced the East River. The house was made of simple white brick but had been personalized by Grigsby with a bright green door and shutters, and above the door was a carved sign that read M. Grigsby, Printer. alongside the house was a small brick outbuilding, a cool house with a step-down floor that had once been a Dutch dairy, where Grigsby kept supplies of paper, ink, and sundry press parts.

"Will you at least think about iti" Grigsby asked on the front step. "I do need your help in this situation."

"I'll give it some thought, but no promises."

"Splendid! That's all I can expect. Well, thank you for your company and the light." He fished his key from his pocket and hesitated with one hand on the latch. "Listen to me, now. You be careful going home. Very careful. Understandi"

"I do, and thank you."

"all right. See me on Thursday, if at all possible, and let's get to work on the next sheet."

Matthew said goodnight and started for home, heading north on Queen Street along the river. There were many things in his mind this early morning, but he found himself pondering the situation of Grigsby's granddaughter. For one thing, he hoped the ship hadn't gone down in a storm. Three weeks latei Of course wind and currents could be fickle, but still...

He knew the real reason he didn't care to become involved with squiring Beryl Grigsby around, and it shamed him because it was purely selfish yet perfectly understandable. He thought Marmaduke hung the moon, but the printmaster's misshapen figure and strange characteristics-from spraying spittle between those gaping teeth to gong-farting-were not the most desirable to find in a young girl. In fact, Matthew shuddered to think what manner of gnome Beryl might be. There was a reason she was on a ship crossing the stormy atlantic toward a rude colonial town, and it likely had little to do with a fire at a Marylebone school.

Besides, he was too busy for such galavanting. Too busy by far.

Right now he only wanted to get this damned bloody shirt off, wash his face, and get to bed. There was the widow Muckleroy's testimony to take at ten o'clock-oh, what a task that was going to be!-and then at one o'clock the real mystery Matthew looked forward to solving: the identity and purpose of Mrs. Katherine Herrald.

Though his lantern candle expired well before he got to safety and his vivid imagination told him he was being stalked by a figure who remained perhaps twenty yards behind, content to wait for another night, he reached the pottery shop without incident and climbed up the ladder and through the trapdoor to the security of his own humble kingdom.

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