Part Three: The Message Chapter Thirty


With Matthew seated across from his two carriage companions, his clothes bag on the floor at his feet and the horses clip-clopping south along the harbor, Mrs. Deverick looked pointedly at him and asked, "Have you sworn off shaving, young mani"

"Forgive the stubble. One of my errands today is to Mr. Reynaud."

"I hear he does a good job," said Pollard. "Though I wouldn't let a slave with a razor anywhere near me."

"Mr. Reynaud is a free man," Matthew reminded him. "He's been free for nearly five years, I understand."

"You're a braver man than me, then. I'd be afraid he'd choose the moment of my shaving to forget he's living in civilization and revert back to savagery. So. I-and Mrs. Deverick also, of course-regret to hear of your recent inconvenience. Where are you livingi"

"In Grigsby's dairyhouse." From the corner of his eye he saw Mrs. Deverick put a black-gloved hand to her mouth. "For the time being. a month, maybe."

"a dairyhouse." a quick smile flickered around the edges of Pollard's mouth. "I assume you'll have all the milk you can drinki"

"It used to be a dairyhouse. Now it's-" He decided to stop playing at civilities. "There was business you wished to discussi" He turned his gaze upon the woman. "Privatelyi"

"Oh, yes." Pollard reached into his coat and brought out an envelope. "Your questions to Mrs. Deverick. She wishes to respond to them, in my presence."

Matthew kept his focus on the widow. "Madam, do you need a lawyer to answer some simple questionsi"

"I think it's best," Pollard offered. "after all, protecting my client is what I'm paid to do."

"In this instance, protection against whati Mei"

"Mr. Corbett, we're all striving for clarity in this situation, are we noti I would be present if Mrs. Deverick were to answer questions like these before High Constable Lillehorne, or any magistrate. Surely I ought to be present if a clerk-no matter how intriguing or intelligent he appears to my client-asks them. and forgive me, Mrs. Deverick, but I have to repeat my objections that this entire arrangement is farcical. What can this fellow learn that trained professionals can't-"

"Objection noted," said Mrs. Deverick. "Now shut your wine keg and sit back. You'll earn your fee with silence as well as with prattling." She took the envelope from his hand as he settled back with a soft hissing noise, his brown eyes glinting with both defeat and disdain. "I decided not to put anything in writing," she told Matthew as she pulled the letter free. "On the advice of my lawyer. Particularly concerning my thoughts on..." She paused for a few seconds, as if willing herself to speak the following names. "Dr. Julius Godwin and Mr. Eben ausley."

"Very well," Matthew said. "Nothing in writing, then."

"I'll answer your questions in the order they were asked. First, having to do with any discussion Mr. Deverick might have had with me concerning business matters: the answer to that is none. as I have previously stated to you, Pennford kept his business affairs strictly to himself. I was required to run the household, raise the sons, and comport myself as a wife ought to. I never asked about business. It was not my realm. Next question: having to do with any recent trips Pennford made, either for business or pleasure."

Matthew was listening, though he had the suspicion this was not going to get him anywhere. The horses clopped on, and Matthew began to think of how good a hot bath was going to feel.

"as recent, I assume you mean within the last six months," Mrs. Deverick continued. "The answer to that, also, is none. Pennford did not care to travel, as he had digestive problems."

"No need for that detail, madam," Pollard spoke up.

She gave him a withering glare. "again, charging per word, I presumei"

"What about less recenti" Matthew asked. "Say, a year or soi"

"adding to the questions now, are wei" was Pollard's rebuke.

"Within a year or so, the answer is the same," said the widow. "None."

Matthew nodded and rubbed his scratchy chin.

Mrs. Deverick put the letter in her lap and smoothed it out. "The third question, and most odious, concerns my displeasure over your mention of those two men in connection with my late husband. I shall state emphatically and under the eye of the Lord that Pennford had no dealings with either Dr. Godwin or Eben ausley. They weren't worth the scrapings off Pennford's boots." She turned to Pollard as he was about to protest this detail and put a finger in his face. "Shut."

Matthew let Pollard settle back like a strawman in collapse before he ventured further. "It's my understanding that Dr. Godwin had a sterling reputation, madam. Even though he was physician to Polly Blossom's ladies. after all, some physician had to take that job."

"ah, but Julius Godwin enjoyed it too much. He practically lived there the last few years. Became a sobbing drunk and nearly a lunatic, spending all his time with what you charitably and foolishly call ladies. Those are demons in disguise, and before I draw my last breath I pray to see Polly Blossom thrown onto a ship like a pile of rags and deported from these colonies."

"We are keeping our emotions about us," Pollard advised.

She ignored him. "I cannot stand a weak man, sir," she said to Matthew, her face nearly contorted with disgust. "Weak men go through those doors. You ask me why I detested Julius Godwin, well there it is. and plenty of eligible-and fashionable-widows available to him, but he preferred to go to the whores. Pennford told me Godwin was sick, and that's why he drank so much and spent his...his energies with those filthy creatures."

"Sicki" Matthew was no longer thinking about the bath; his mind was questing. "You mean mentally illi"

"I mean he could have been married long ago, but he threw himself away. and I recall when Dr. Godwin first came here, he was a fine upstanding physician. a clean man. Had come from London, to start anew. He was all right, until his weakness killed him."

"I think it was the Masker who killed him," Matthew said.

"The Masker finished the job Godwin's weakness began," came the reply. "I don't know, maybe the Masker is some maniac who was incensed over where Godwin put his dirty instruments."

Matthew let that one go. Pollard was just looking blankly out at the ships as the carriage progressed toward the Great Dock. Matthew wondered if Pollard might be thinking what Mrs. Deverick would say if she knew that one of her own lawyers was as much a whore-monger as Godwin had been. It seemed that the upper class had all the money, but the lower class-like the widow Sherwyn-had all the knowledge. But of course, according to Grigsby, there were plenty of Polly Blossom's customers living on Golden Hill.

Matthew leaned forward. "You said Dr. Godwin came from London to start anew. When was thati"

"I suppose it was...at least fifteen years ago. Probably nearer twenty."

"and start anew from whati"

"I don't know for certain. It was a phrase Pennford used. But it was well-known that Godwin's wife died of fever, when they were both very young. He told it around town. Possibly that had something to do with the drunken wreckage he became, but I had no sympathy for him."

a silence stretched, as Matthew pondered this last statement.

Pollard came out of his trance. "Where do you want us to drop you, Corbetti"

"Eben ausley," Matthew said to the woman. "What about himi"

Mrs. Deverick gave an unladylike snort of derision. "You being an orphan, as Mr. Pollard informs me, I'm surprised you don't know what was whispered about him. That he was a...well, I hardly can mention the word. That he took liberties with his charges. Hadn't you heardi Pennford despised him, too, and said that if any orphan ever came forward to testify about such indignities he personally would have that monstrous heathen hanged in front of City Hall."

"Really," Matthew said, as the world seemed to spin around in one dizzying revolution.

"absolutely. It could never be proven, though. Evidently the rumor went that ausley was reeking drunk at a tavern and made some mention of...that practice to one of the whores. She told someone else, and...but, as I said, it was never proven. Still, that man made my flesh crawl. I didn't like him, just on principle."

"But who can trust a whorei" asked Pollard, with a shrug.

"You were ausley's lawyer. How is it you could represent Pennford Deverick and also ausleyi"

"Where's the problemi My firm inherited both accounts from Charles Land. I handled ausley's legal and financial affairs, not his morals. and if you're wishing to stir up muddy water between Mrs. Deverick and me, you'll be disappointed to know that she understands-as did her husband-that a lawyer is a tool for a purpose. It was not my place to pass judgment on anyone."

"Though now that Pennford is gone, there might have been a change of legal firms if ausley had remained alive," Mrs. Deverick said. "Tool or not."

"another question for you." Matthew kept his gaze on Pollard. "Since you handled ausley's financial affairs, how is it he could afford to lose so much money at the gaming tablesi"

Pollard's reddish-brown eyebrows lifted. "How is it you know how much money he losti If indeed he lost anyi"

"I saw him lose money on many occasions."

"Did youi What were you doingi Following himi"

"I just...saw him, that's all. In the taverns."

"I'd presume," said Pollard, "that on some nights he lost and on some nights he won. If you do the math, you might find he came out even or a little ahead."

"He was repulsive." Mrs. Deverick returned the letter to the envelope. "and Godwin was sickening. So there are your answers, Mr. Corbett." She held the envelope out to him. "Helpful in some way, I hope."

Not really, he wanted to say, but then again he had to put his mind to what the woman had told him and sift through the information as if it were fine sand. He took the envelope and settled against his seatback, the horses' rhythm causing the carriage to rock back and forth.

"My opinion, if I'm allowed to give one," said Pollard, who paused to make sure his nose wasn't clipped before he went on, "is that this Masker person has left town. I think the decree has had its effect, as much as we regret having to lose income to suit Lord Cornbury's grievances against the taverns. I mean, if I were the Masker, why should I wish to dawdle at the scene of the crimesi"

"Possibly because your work might not be donei" Matthew asked, looking sharply at him.

"My worki and what work might that be, siri"

"I don't know."

"Did you hear that, madami" Pollard's voice was almost gleeful. "Your investigator doesn't know. Corbett, I'll give you some free advice, and pay heed to it. Return to your role as clerk and give up this amusing attempt to play at high constable. You'll be ever so much the better for-"

"One moment," Matthew interrupted. "Repeat that, please."

"Repeat whati"

"You said, 'I'll give you some free advice, and-'"

"I have no idea what you're going on about now."

"'Pay heed to it,' is what you said," Mrs. Deverick spoke up. She looked quizzically at Matthew.

"Yes. Would you repeat that phrase, Mr. Pollardi"

Pollard grinned and frowned and grinned. "Has your brain gotten too much suni"

Matthew watched him carefully. I have marked a page, the Masker's muffled voice had said last night. Pay heed to it. "Just speak it. Won't youi"

"I've said it once, why should I say it againi Because you demand iti"

"Because I'm asking."

"For the mercy of Christ!" scowled the widow. "Say it, Pollard!"

"all right then, what do I care if a lunatic demands that I speak a phrase I hardly even recall sayingi Pay heed to it, pay heed to it, pay heed to it! Does that send you into a rapturei"

Matthew had been listening for something-anything-that might remind him of the voice from last night, but he heard nothing recognizable in tone or cadence. Still, the voice being so muffled, probably disguised behind a cravat pulled up over the mouth...it was hard to tell whether Pollard was shamming or not. Inconclusive, he thought, but he still kept a watchful eye trained on the man.

"I suppose I'll get out here," Matthew said, as the carriage reached Hanover Square. Micah Reynaud's shop was only two blocks away, across from the Jewish synagogue on Mill Street. With a command from Mrs. Deverick to her driver, the carriage was at the curb. Matthew retrieved his bag, clicked open the door, and stepped out.

"Do get a shave, Corbett," Pollard said. "a bath might go well for you, also."

"Thank you, sir." Matthew paused on the last carriage step before easing down onto the paving stones. He wanted to try one last time with the lady. "Mrs. Deverick, can you think of any trip your late husband might have takeni Not in recent memory, perhaps, but within the last few yearsi"

"This interview is over," came Pollard's cutting voice. "Mr. Deverick's trips have no bearing whatsoever on-"

"I'm trying to find a motive," Matthew persisted. "a clue. anything. Please, Mrs. Deverick. any information you might have would be helpful."

"Do not beg, Mr. Corbett." She glowered down at him. "It is a sign of weakness."

Matthew felt his mouth draw into a tight line. Damn it all, he thought. He'd done his best, but this seemed to be a dead-end. "Thank you for your time, madam," he said, rather grimly, and stepped down onto the stones.

Her powdered face with its thin arched eyebrows leaned toward him. "If it would be helpful," she said, "there were the trips to Philadelphia."

Matthew froze where he stood.

"Madami" Pollard again, trying to regain his authority now that Matthew was out of the carriage. "I don't think you are obligated to-"

"Hush," she snapped, and he hushed. Then, to Matthew, "Pennford made several trips to Philadelphia. Several years ago, though. I do know that our firm handles the brokerage duties for taverns there, as well."

"Oh, I see. How did that come abouti"

Pollard leaned out to give his two pence. "Mr. Deverick bought a Philadelphia brokerage firm. That was in 1698. ancient history, as far as business goes."

"You handled the papersi"

"No, it was a few months before I arrived. The transaction was managed by Charles Land. May we go on our way nowi"

"and," said Mrs. Deverick, "Pennford did take the trip to London. I think that was...early autumn of 1695."

"Londoni" Matthew was intrigued. "Did you accompany himi"

"I did not."

"So you don't know who he visitedi"

"It was business, I'm sure. Pennford would not have made such a journey as that for any other reason. When he came back, his stomach pained him so much Dr. Edmonds put him in bed for a week."

"The Philadelphia brokerage firm," Matthew said to Pollard. "What was its titlei"

"It bears Mr. Deverick's name."

"Yes, I understand it bears his name now, but who owned the firm before Mr. Deverick bought iti"

Pollard laughed harshly. "Clerk, what are you driving ati That there is some connection between Mr. Deverick's murder and the brokerage firm in Philadelphiai You might as well accuse the man in the moon!"

"I'm not accusing, I'm asking. Who owned the firm before Mr. Deverick bought iti"

"Dear God, you're an arse-pain! Excuse my language, madam."

"Mr. Pollardi" Matthew said, willing to grind the man down. "Why won't you answer my questioni Do you know, or don't youi"

"It was a man named Ives, who is still employed by the Deverick company as manager there. So what does that tell youi"

"That I'd hate to perform dental surgery on you, sir, as the extraction of your teeth would have to be done with explosives."

Pollard's face had reddened. His thoughts, Matthew reckoned, must have been equally as crimson. The lawyer sat back in his seat, and Matthew saw that Mrs. Deverick had enjoyed this little combat because she was smiling wickedly.

"I have to say," she commented, "you're an entertaining young man, Mr. Corbett."

"Thank you, madam."

"Is there anything else, theni"

"No, but I appreciate your candor and your time."

"Our arrangement still stands," she said. "I'd like to pay you the ten shillings, if only to see you move into something more suitable than a dairyhouse."

"I intend to collect the money," Matthew replied, "but the dairyhouse will suit me for a while."

"as you please. Good day, then." To the driver she said crisply, "Drive on!" and the carriage promptly pulled away, leaving Matthew in bustling Hanover Square with his mind again turning toward the Queen of Bedlam.

It was interesting, he pondered, how the Queen had been placed in the asylum by a Philadelphia lawyer, and now came news that Deverick owned a brokerage firm in the Fount of Brotherly Love. He doubted that there was as much money to be made in the Quaker town as in New York. Why had Deverick bought the firmi Simply for the desire of acquisitioni He recalled something Robert had said, answering questions about his dead father in McCaggers' cold room: Here he had no competition.

Deverick had obviously amassed quite a fortune in New York. Was it not enough for himi Did he wish the challenge of starting over again in Philadelphiai

The London trip. Pennford did not care to travel, as he had digestive problems.

So why had a man with digestive problems gone for a sea voyage of many weeks to Londoni Businessi What kind of business was it that would call for Deverick to make such a sacrifice of time and suffering of healthi

Interesting, he thought.

Matthew believed now more than ever that all roads led to the Queen of Bedlam. She sat there in her sublime silence at the center of all mysteries. It was his task to somehow make her reveal the answers.

Hefting his bag, he started toward Micah Reynaud's shop, looking forward to a keen razor and a cake of sandalwood soap.

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