Part Two: The Madness Chapter Nineteen
Before Matthew could proceed with his intent to have lunch at the Gallop and settle into what would hopefully be a quiet afternoon, even as some in the town were organizing protests against the forthcoming Clear Streets Decree, he had a mission to complete.
He'd been considering what he was to tell John Five about the reverend's journey last night, and still-as one step after another took him nearer to Master Ross' blacksmithery-he was unsure. It wouldn't do to wait for John Five to come to him. as Matthew had been asked in all good faith to perform this duty, he felt obligated to report on his findings with proper speed, but yet...had he really made any findingsi Of course he'd seen Wade sob in front of Madam Blossom's house, but what did it meani Sometimes, Matthew knew, there was a vast gulf between what was seen and what there was to be understood, and therein lay his problem.
He entered the sullen heat of the smith's shop, found John Five at his usual labor, and invited him outside to speak. The ritual of asking a few minutes from Master Ross was repeated, and shortly Matthew and John Five were standing together at about the same spot they'd been on Tuesday morning.
"So," John Five began, when Matthew was hesitant in speaking. "You followed himi"
"Busy night, that was. a terrible night, for ausley."
"It was," Matthew agreed.
They were silent for a moment. Pedestrians passed on the sidewalk, a wagon carrying sacks of grain trundled by, and two children ran along rolling a stick-and-hoop.
"are you gonna tell me, or noti" John asked.
Matthew decided to say, "Not."
John frowned. "and why noti"
"I did discover his destination. But I'm not sure it was his usual destination. I don't feel ready to tell you where it was, or what I witnessed there."
"Did you not understand how serious this thing isi"
"Oh, I did and do understand. That's exactly why I need more time."
"More timei" John Five thought about that. "You're sayin' you're gonna follow him againi"
"Yes," Matthew said. "I want to see if he goes to the same place. If he does...I may wish to speak to him first. Then, according to how things progress, he may tell either you or Constance himself."
John ran a hand through his hair, his expression perplexed. "It must be bad."
"Right now, it's neither good nor bad. My observations are unsupported, and thus I have to refrain from saying any more." Matthew realized John Five was waiting for something else-anything he might grasp upon as a spar of hope-and so Matthew said, "There's likely going to be a Clear Streets Decree tonight. The taverns will be closing early and there'll be more constables on the streets. I doubt if Reverend Wade will be making his late-night walks until the decree is lifted, and when that will be I have no idea."
"He might not walk," John said, "but his trouble won't go away so easy."
"I think you're absolutely right in that regard. For the time being, though, there's nothing either of us can do."
"all right," John Five said in a dispirited voice. "I don't like it, but I guess it'll have to be."
Matthew agreed that it would, wished his friend a good day, and promptly walked farther along the street to Tobias Winekoop's stable where he secured Suvie for the next morning at six-thirty. His Saturday training session with Hudson Greathouse was looming ever more darkly in his mind, but at least he knew what to expect.
Now there was one more errand he wished to conduct before lunch and this one had been prompted by Widow Sherwyn's gossip of Golden Hill. among the fine houses there was the red brick mansion belonging to the Deverick family. Matthew doubted that Lillehorne had spent much time-if any-interviewing Deverick's widow Esther and son Robert about the elder man's business affairs. Even if they were near neighbors, the Lillehornes and Devericks were not cut from the same cloth. It seemed to Matthew that if a connection was to be found between Dr. Godwin, Deverick, and now-of all unlikely persons-ausley, such a link might be discovered in the business realm. He realized he might indeed be far off the mark, as how in the world could an orphanage headmaster with a gambling fetish be involved with a wealthy goods broker who had clawed his way up from the bitter streets of Londoni and furthermore, then, how was an eminent and much-admired physician involved with both of themi
He intended to at least, as McCaggers might have said, take a shot at it. He started off northward toward the area known as Golden Hill, which was a row of palatial houses and gardens east of the Broad Way the length of Golden Hill Street between Crown and Fair.
as Matthew approached this avenue of opulence he sidestepped a farmer's wagon bringing hogs to market and looked up toward the heights where the rich folk lived. Golden Hill Street might be made of plain hard-packed dirt, but the residences were inhabited by the town's gilded families. and what residences they were! Two-storied with ornate constructions of red, white, or yellow brick, cream-colored stone and gray rock, with balconies, terraces, and cupolas and cut-glass windows that gazed in all directions upon harbor, townscape, and woodland as if marking what had passed and what was to pass in the history and future of New York. No doubt about it, these were the families who had created something of great value to this enterprise and were justly rewarded for their influence and financial bravery. all except Lillehorne, of course, who lived in the smallest house at the western end of the street and whose money came from his father-in-law, yet it was in the interest of those other stalwarts that a high constable be kept among the club if only as errand-boy.
Here the street was neatly raked and kept free of those irritating mounds of manure otherwise endured by the ordinary joseph and josephine. Huge shade trees invited lingering where no lingering was tolerated, and bursts of flowers in geometric gardens wafted into the warm air complex aromas that seemed perhaps a little too sophisticated for nostrils assailed by dockyard tar and fried sausages in the small chaos called life down below.
Matthew advanced eastward on the sidewalk, passing through pools of shade and again into bright sunlight. Everything seemed quieter up here, more restrained, tighter somehow. He could almost hear from marbled vestibules the thrum of pendulum clocks that were old before he was born, marking time for the servants as they moved from room to room. Even with his penchant for getting into places where he wasn't welcomed, Matthew was a bit awed by these displays of wealth. He'd walked on Golden Hill Street many times, of course, but he'd never been on such a mission as this where he'd actually intended to go knocking at a door dismantled from a Scottish castle. Warehouse captain, sugar mill general, credit and loan earl, lumberyard duke, slave trade baron, real estate prince, and shipyard emperor all lived here where the grass was green and the gravel of the carriage driveways smooth and white as infants' teeth.
He came along a five-foot-high wrought-iron fence topped with spear-tips and there was the simple iron nameplate Deverick. He faced a gate that challenged him from continuing up a fieldstone walkway to the front door yet it was unlocked and easily conquered. He noted how quiet were the hinges as they allowed him entry; he'd been almost expecting a scream of outrage. Then he went up the walkway and under the blue bloom of a canopy above the front steps. He climbed them, six in number, and as he reached for the polished brass door knocker he had a moment of self-doubt in that he was still, after all, a simple clerk. What business did he have bothering the Devericks when this ought to be the high constable's taski It was up to Lillehorne to pursue the Masker, as part of his official duty.
True, all true. Yet Matthew knew from past observation how the high constable's mind worked, in square circles and circular squares. If one waited on him to put paid to the Masker's bill, even the outlandish idea of a daily Earwig couldn't keep up with the murders. There was something to this link between the doctor, the broker, and the orphanage chief that Matthew thought only he might uncover, and now this new fact that nettled him like a mosquito in the mind: what had become of ausley's notebooki
He pulled his willpower back up to his ears again, took firm hold of the knocker, and let it be known Matthew Corbett had come to call.
Promptly the door was opened. an austere whipcord of a woman wearing a gray dress with lace around the throat peered out at him. She was about forty years of age, had a severe cap of ash-blond hair and deep-set hazel eyes that looked him up and down-lingering on the shirt stain-and shot out a negative opinion on seemingly everything from his forehead scar to the scuffs on his shoes. She didn't speak.
"I'd like to see Mr. Deverick, please," Matthew said.
"Mr. Davarick," she replied with a heavy foreign accent that Matthew thought might be austrian or Prussian but certainly from somewhere in old Europe, "iss decissed. He iss bean bearit thiss afternun at two o'cluck."
"I'd like to see the younger Mr. Deverick," Matthew corrected.
"Iss nut pozzible. Goot day." She started to close the door on him, but he reached out and put his hand against it.
"May I ask why it's not possiblei"
"Mrs. Davarick iss oot. I am nut giffen parmizzion."
"Gretli Who is thati" came a voice from beyond the servant woman.
"It's Matthew Corbett!" he took the opportunity to shout, a bit too loudly for this quiet neighborhood because Gretl looked as if she wished to kick him where it hurt with one of her polished square-toed black boots. "May I have a momenti"
"My mother's not home," Robert said, still standing out of sight.
"I haf tolt him ssso, sssir." That one was almost a spit in Matthew's face.
"It's you I'd like to speak with," Matthew persisted, braving the elements. "Concerning your father's..." He had a choice of words here, and he chose "...murder."
Gretl glared at him, waiting for Robert's reaction. When young Deverick gave none, she said "Goot day" again and began to push the door shut with a strength that Matthew thought might break his elbow were he to try and resist.
"Let him in." Robert now made an appearance, if only as a shadow in the cool dimness of the house.
"I am nut giffen par-"
"I'll give you permission. Let him in."
Gretl gave a little stiff-necked lowering of the head, though her eyes flashed with fire. She opened the door, Matthew walked past her almost expecting a boot up the arse, and Robert came forward on the dark parquet floor to meet him.
Matthew held his hand out and Robert shook it. "I regret bothering you today, as"-the door was rather roughly closed and Gretl glided past Matthew into a carpeted hallway-"obviously you have much on your mind," Matthew continued, "but thank you for the time."
"I can only give you a few minutes. My mother's out."
Matthew could only respond with a nod. Robert's curly brown hair had been neatly brushed and he wore an immaculate black suit and waistcoat, cravat and crisp white shirt, yet at close range his face was chalky and his gray eyes dark-shadowed and unfocused. Matthew thought he looked years older than he'd appeared at the meeting on Tuesday. The shock of a brutal murder had sapped his youth, and from what Matthew had heard of this family, Robert's eighteen-year-old spirit had long ago been damaged by his father's heavy hand.
"The parlor," Robert said. "This way."
Matthew followed the younger man into a room with a high vaulted ceiling and a fireplace made of black marble with two Greek goddesses holding what appeared to be ancient wine amphoras. The rug on the floor was blood-red trimmed with gold circles, the walls made of varnished dark timbers. The furniture-writing desk, chairs, an octagonal table with clawed feet-were all fashioned of glossy black wood save for a red fabric sofa set in front of the hearth. The room was as deep as the house, for one diamond-paned glass window gave a view onto Golden Hill Street while a second window of the same design looked out upon a flowering garden decorated with white statues and a small pond. The wealth this single room represented was enough to almost steal Matthew's breath away. He doubted if in his entire life he would ever hold enough money to even buy such a fireplace, which seemed large enough to burn tree trunks. But then again, he wondered why he would ever want to; it seemed to him that pineknots kept one just as warm, and everything beyond that was wasteful. Still, it was a magnificent chamber in a majestic house, and Robert must have seen this awestruck expression before because he said almost apologetically, "It's just a room." He motioned toward a chair. "Please sit down."
Matthew sat carefully, as if the chair might bite him for being ill-born.
Robert also sat down, in the chair at the writing desk. He rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand, and Matthew thought he was trying to clear his mind before the conversation began.
Matthew was coming up with his first sentence when Robert said, his eyes still hazy, "You found my father."
"No, not exactly. I mean to say, I was there, but actually-"
"Is that the new broadsheeti"
"Yes, it is. Would you care to see iti" Matthew got up and placed the Earwig on the desktop blotter, then returned to his seat.
Robert spent a moment reading the article concerning his father's demise. His expression never changed; it remained almost blank, only faintly touched with sadness at the edges of the mouth. When he finished reading he turned the paper over. "Mr. Grigsby told me it was coming out today. I enjoyed his last edition." His gaze briefly flickered toward Matthew and then away again. "I understand there was another killing last night. I heard my mother talking about it, with Mr. Pollard."
"Mr. Pollardi He was here this morningi"
"He came for her. He's our lawyer, you know."
"and she went somewhere with Mr. Pollardi"
"To City Hall. There was going to be a meeting, Mr. Pollard said. about the taverns, and a Clear Streets Decree. He told my mother about Mr. ausley. I expect that's why Lord Cornbury wants to close the taverns early, isn't that righti"
"Mr. Pollard told my mother she should be there with him at the meeting. He said she should wear her funeral gown, the better to remind Lord Cornbury that she also has been a victim, but that she wishes the taverns and the town to operate as usual just the same. It's a lot of money for us, you know."
"I would imagine so," Matthew said.
On the desktop were a number of envelopes and a blue glass ball paperweight. Robert picked up the ball and gazed into it as if searching for something there. "My father has said many times that we are enriched whenever a candle is lighted in the taverns, or a glass of wine drunk. Whenever a cup cracks, or a platter breaks." He looked over the ball at Matthew. "You see, that is a lot of money."
"I'm sure a fortune's been made on many Saturday nights alone."
"But it's a difficult task, as well," Robert went on, almost as if speaking to himself. "Getting the best price for the goods. Dealing with the suppliers, keeping everything moving as it should. Some items have to come across the sea, you know. Then there's the warehouse and the inventory. The wine barrels have to be inspected. The food animals chosen and prepared. There are so many details to keep up with. It's not as if we wish these things and make them happen."
"Certainly not," Matthew said, willing to wait for what destination Robert was travelling toward.
The younger Deverick was silent as he turned the paperweight between his hands. "My father," he finally said, "was a man of direct action. a self-made man. No one gave him anything, ever. and he never asked for favors. He created it all, himself. That is a thing to be proud of, don't you thinki"
"and a smart man," Robert continued, though now there was a harsher edge to his voice. "But he never had a formal education. Far from it. He said...many times...that his education was gotten from the streets and the public markets. He never knew his own father, you see. What he remembered of his mother...was a woman in a small room who drank herself to death. It wasn't easy for him. Not for Mr. Deverick, no. Yet he made all this." Robert nodded, his eyes as glassy as the paperweight. "Yes, my father was a smart man. I think he was right, when he said I wasn't fit for the business. Did I tell you he said thati"
"No," Matthew replied.
"a direct man, he was. Not unkind, though. Just...a man of action. Such men are dying breeds, my mother says. and now look here, my father's dead." a quick and terrible smile flashed across Robert's mouth, yet his eyes were wet with crushed misery.
The room seemed much smaller to Matthew than it had a few minutes before. He had the sensation of ghostly movement in the dark-timbered room, as if the vaulted ceiling was slowly lowering itself upon his head and the fireplace opening wider like an ebony mouth. The light from the windows seemed more dim, and more distant.
"Oh," Robert said, almost a gasp of surprise. He touched his right cheek like a slow-motion slap. "I'm prattling. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to go on."
Matthew kept silent, but Robert's moment of self-revelation was done. The younger man put aside the blue ball, straightened his spine against the chairback, and stared inquisitively at Matthew through red-rimmed eyes from the pallid face.
"Sssiri" Gretl was standing in the doorway. "My edvize iss to esk thiss vizitor to leaf now."
"It's all right, Gretl. Really it is. Besides, I've been just prattling on, haven't I, Mr. Corbetti"
"We're just talking," Matthew said.
Gretl gave him not even a disdainful glance. "Mrs. Davarick dit nut giff me parmizzion to-"
"My mother is not here," Robert interrupted, and the sound of his voice cracking on the last word made Matthew flinch. Red whorls had risen on the white cheeks. "Now that my father is gone, I am the head of this house when my mother is not here! Do you understand thati"
Gretl said nothing, but just stared impassively at him.
"Leave us alone," Robert said, his voice weaker now and his head beginning to slump, as if the act of asserting himself had drained him.
She gave another slight nod. "Vateffer you sey." and then she was gone into the guts of the house like a drifting wraith.
"I don't mean to be a problem," Matthew offered.
"You're not a problem! I can have a visitor if I like!" Robert caught himself and seemed to be struggling with this sudden rush of anger. "I'm sorry. Forgive me, it's been of course a terrible week."
"Don't mind Gretl. She's been the housekeeper here for years and she thinks she runs the place. Well, perhaps she does. But the last time I looked, my name was still Deverick and this was my house, too, so no, you're not a problem."
Matthew thought it was time he presented his questions to Robert, as he was beginning to fear the consequences if the widow Deverick returned and found him here without "parmizzion." He said, "I won't take up too much more of your time. I know you have an unfortunate task this afternoon and a lot weighing on your mind, but I'd like to ask you to think about this: can you identify any connection whatsoever between Dr. Godwin, your father, and Eben ausleyi"
"No," Robert said almost at once. "None."
"Just consider it for a moment. Sometimes things aren't so obvious. For instance, did your father-and excuse me for being indelicate about this-like to go to the taverns himself and perhaps play the dice or cardsi"
"Never." again, it was spoken quickly and with resolve.
"He didn't gamblei"
"My father despised gambling. He thought it was a sure route for fools to throw their money away."
"all right." That seemed to close that particular avenue of advancement, but Matthew had to wonder what the deceased would have said about his dice-throwing young lawyers. "Do you know if your father ever visited Dr. Godwini Either professionally or sociallyi"
"Our physician for years has been Dr. Edmonds. Besides, my mother couldn't stand Dr. Godwin."
"Reallyi May I ask whyi"
"Well, everyone knows," Robert said.
"Everyone but me, then." Matthew gave a patient smile.
"The ladies," Robert said. "You know. at Polly Blossom's."
"I know there are prostitutes at Polly Blossom's house, yes. Is there something elsei"
Robert waved a hand at him, as if in irritation at Matthew's thick skull. "My mother says everyone knows Dr. Godwin is physician to the ladies. Was, I mean. She says she wouldn't let him put a finger on her."
"Hm," Matthew replied, more of a thoughtful response than a word. He hadn't known that Dr. Godwin was physician-on-call to Polly Blossom's investments, but then again such an item would not necessarily have crossed his horizon as a topic of conversation. He marked the information, though, as something to pursue.
"If your next question is to be whether or not my father dallied at Polly Blossom's, I can tell you emphatically that he did not," said Robert, a little haughtiness husking his voice. "My father and mother-while not exactly the picture of passion-were devoted to one another. I mean...no one has a perfect life, do theyi"
"I'm sure no one does," Matthew agreed, and he let that sit like a bone in a stewpot for a few seconds before he said, "I assume, then, that you won't be taking over the businessi"
Robert's eyes were unfocused again. He seemed to be staring past Matthew. "a letter was sent to my brother Thomas in London yesterday morning. I expect he'll be here by October."
"But who'll be in charge between now and theni"
"We have capable managers. My mother says. She says everything will be taken care of. The business will go on, I'll return to school in august, and Thomas will take over. But you know, I was being groomed for it. Supposedly. Groomed with my business education. But my father said..." Here Robert hesitated, a muscle clenching in his jaw. "My father said...for all my education, something was left out of me. Isn't that humorousi" He smiled, but on that strained and bitter face it was more tragedy than comedy. "With all the grades I've been getting, all that studying in a cubbyhole night after night to make him...make them both...proud...that he should say something was left out of mei Oh yes, he had proper words for me. When I dealt with the man who shortchanged our beef order, last month. I had not made him afraid enough, my father said. I had not plunged the dagger in and twisted it, to make that man fear the Deverick name. That's what it's about, you know: power and fear. We step on the heads of those below us, they step on the lower heads, and down and down until the snails are crushed in their shells. That's what it will always be about."
"Your father didn't think you were hard enough with a swindleri Is that iti"
"My father always said business is war. a businessman should be a warrior, he said, and if someone dares to challenge you then...destruction has to be the only response." Robert blinked heavily. "I suppose school can't put that into a person's soul, if it's not there. all the grades in the world...all the honors...nothing can put that there, if you're not born with it."
"You're describing a man who must have made a lot of enemies over the course of his career."
"He had them. But mostly they were competitors in London. as I've told you before, here he had no competitors." There came the noise of horse hooves on the street. Matthew saw through the front window a black carriage pulling up to the curb. "My mother's returned," Robert said, listlessly.
With almost frightening speed the gruesome Gretl was out the front door and striding toward Mrs. Deverick's carriage to, Matthew presumed, fry his bacon. Matthew considered his options. He could either try to get out like a scalded dog or face the situation like a gentleman. In another moment, however, the scalded-dog option was out the window because just as Matthew had risen to his feet and was walking out of the parlor, Mrs. Deverick entered the vestibule with Joplin Pollard following behind and Gretl in the rear almost slobbering with evil anticipation of a fiery scene.
"I tolt him!" Gretl was hissing, even though there were no esses to be hissed. "Thet rud boy!"
"and here he stands," Pollard said, with a dry smile that did not involve the eyes. "Hello, Mr. Corbett. Just leaving, I presumei"
"Just leaving, Mr. Pollard."
But before Matthew could get out the door there was a formidable presence in a black funeral gown and hat with a black-lace veil over the face that had to be passed, and this was going to be no easy voyage. Mrs. Deverick set herself between him and the outside world, and one of her black-gloved hands rose up in front of his face with a lifted index finger that had the power, like the wand of a witch, to stop him in his tracks.
"One moment," Esther Deverick said quietly, her voice as frosty as a January eve. "What are you doing here, on our day of sorrowi"
Matthew dug deep but couldn't find anything to say. He saw Gretl grinning beyond Joplin Pollard.
"Motheri" Robert stepped forward. "Mr. Corbett was kind enough to bring us the new broadsheet." He lifted his right hand, and in it was the Earwig.
"I have one already." Mrs. Deverick lifted her black-gloved left hand, and in it was the Earwig. "Would someone care to tell me who this young man isi"
"Matthew Corbett is his name," Pollard spoke up. "a clerk for Magistrate Powers."
"a clark!" Gretl nearly cackled.
"He's the young man featured in the article," said Pollard. "You said you wished to meet him, not an hour ago. Here he is, at your command."
"Yes, isn't that so very convenient." The woman lifted her veil. Her narrow dark brown eyes under thin-penciled brows and her white, high-cheekboned face made Matthew think of an insect, one of those preying things that ate their mates. Her hair, a fixed mass of elaborate curls, was so black it had to be either a wig or poured from a bottle of India ink. She was thin and small, actually, with a fashionably cinched waist for a woman her age, which Matthew guessed at between fifty and fifty-five, about three or four years her deceased husband's junior. It was as much the voluminous folds of the gown as her queenly bearing that made her seem to fill up the vestibule with no possible escape for Matthew until she deigned to free him. Which she did not. "I asked you what business you have here. Close that door, Mr. Pollard."
Thunk, it went.
"Speak," said Mrs. Deverick.
Matthew had to first clear his throat. He was painfully aware of all the eyes watching him. "Pardon my intrusion, madam. I...well, I was going to say I was passing by, but that would be an untruth. I came here for the purpose of interviewing your son concerning Mr. Deverick's murder."
"Now is probably not the time, Corbett," Pollard cautioned.
"Did I require you to intercede for me, siri" The narrow dark eyes flicked at Pollard like a whipstrike and then returned to Matthew. "On whose authority do you conduct this so-called interviewi The printmasteri The high constablei Talk, if you have a tongue!"
Matthew felt a bit weak-kneed under this barrage, but he steeled himself and said, "My own authority, madam. I want to know who killed Dr. Godwin, your husband, and Eben ausley, and I intend to pursue the matter to the best of my ability."
"I forgot to tell you," Pollard offered, "that Mr. Corbett has the unfortunate reputation of being what might be called in impolite circles a 'sammy rooster.' His crowing and bluster seem to exceed his good taste."
"I consider myself a competent judge of taste, good or bad," came the rather stinging reply. "Mr. Corbett, how is it that you think yourself suited to pursue this subject when the town has a high constable employed to do soi Isn't that a presumption on your parti"
"I imagine it is. I'm presuming from prior experience and observation that Mr. Lillehorne couldn't pursue his path from his bed to his bedpan."
Pollard rolled his eyes, but the lady of the house showed no response.
"I think there was a common bond among the three victims," Matthew went on, before he lost his momentum. "I think the Masker is not an errant lunatic, but a cunning and very sane killer-if one may call murder an act of sanity-determined to make some kind of statement. If I can deduce that statement, I believe I can unmask the Masker, as it were. Others may yet die before that happens, I don't know. I assume the Clear Streets Decree is going throughi"
Still Mrs. Deverick didn't speak. at last Pollard said, "Tonight the taverns will close at eight o'clock. The decree begins at half past eight. We're going to fight it with a petition, of course, and we fully expect to have this unfounded burden lifted after-"
"Save your red rag for the court." Mrs. Deverick continued to stare forcefully into Matthew's eyes. "Why have I never heard of youi"
"We turn in different circles," Matthew said, with a slight bow of respect.
"and what's in this for youi Moneyi Famei Oh." Now a light seemed to appear in those eyes and a fleeting smile crossed the thin pursed lips. "You want to show Lillehorne up, don't youi"
"I have no need to show anyone up. I strive for the solution of the matter, that's all." But even as he said this, he realized he'd been stuck with a small sharp knife of truth. Maybe he did want to "show Lillehorne up," as she so acidly put it; or, more to the point, he wanted to demonstrate to the town that Lillehorne was ineffectual, buffle-headed, and probably corrupt as well.
"I don't believe you," Mrs. Deverick replied, and let it hang. Then she cocked her head to one side as if inspecting an interesting new growth that had sprouted in her garden. She was trying to decide if it was a flowering plant or a noxious weed. When Pollard made a noise to speak, Mrs. Deverick lifted that single commanding finger again and he instantly shut his mumbler.
To Matthew Mrs. Deverick said in a low, calm voice, "There are three things that greatly displease me. The first being an uninvited visitor. The second being the theory that my husband was in any way associated with the two deplorable men whose names you have spoken. The third being a certain imposter to civility on this street named Maude Lillehorne." She paused and, for the first time it seemed to Matthew, blinked. "I will choose to overlook the first according to your motive and I will grant you a certain small amount of leeway on the second according to your curiosity. as to the third," she said, "I will pay you ten shillings to discover the Masker's identity before there's another killing."
"Whati" Pollard sounded as if he'd been struck in the belly-pipes.
"Every night the decree continues, the Deverick family will lose money," the woman continued, still solely addressing Matthew. "I agree that the high constable is beyond his depth in this situation. I would like to see him-and by extenuation his wife-skewered on the wit of a magistrate's clerk. If you have wit enough, which will remain to be seen. Therefore I wish this problem to be solved before Lord Cornbury is given more reason to drag the decree out, court or no court. Ten shillings is my offer, and it is an offer of which I believe my husband-God rest him-would have approved."
Pollard said, "Madam, may I give advice that you not-"
"The time for advice is over. It is time for action, and I believe this young man may save the day for us." She turned her face toward Pollard. "My husband lies dead, sir. He will not rise like Lazarus. It is up to me now, to guide this endeavor until Thomas arrives." She didn't even pretend to acknowledge that Robert stood only a few feet away. Then, once more facing Matthew, "Ten shillings. Find this murderer before he strikes again. Yes or noi"
Ten shillings, Matthew thought. It was an outlandish amount. It was more money than he'd ever been paid in one sum in his life. He thought he must be dreaming, but of course he said, "Yes."
"If there's another killing, you get not a duit. If the high constable achieves the unlikely goal of solving this problem, you get not a duit. If the individual is uncovered by any other citizen, you-"
"Get not a duit," Matthew said. "I understand."
"Good. Then there's one further thing. I wish to know first. Not for the sake of revenge or any un-Christian motive, but...if there is indeed any connection between the three, I wish to be notified before Mr. Grigsby can print it for the town to devour."
"Forgive me," Matthew said, "but that sounds as if you might...how shall I say thisi...have some reason to be concerned."
"My husband kept much to himself," she replied. "It was his nature. Now please leave, as I must rest before the funeral."
"May I return at a more convenient time and continue the interviewi Both with yourself and your soni"
"You may write your questions down, give them to Mr. Pollard, and they will be contemplated."
Contemplated did not necessarily mean answered, Matthew thought, but he was in no position to contradict. "Very well."
"Good day, then. and I shall add good hunting." With that curt dismissal, she moved past him with a stormy rustle of stiffened fabric and lace, motioning for Robert to accompany her.
On Matthew's way out the door, which Gretl held wide for his exit, Pollard said, "Wait at the curb a moment and I'll give you a lift. I'm heading back to the office."
"No thank you," Matthew decided. "I think better when I walk." He went out and the door was shut at his back with a resounding finality. He didn't care. He strode in the sunlight past the waiting carriage and driver along Golden Hill Street west toward the Broad Way.
It occurred to him that, Herrald agency or not, he'd just been hired to solve his first problem as a private investigator.
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