Part Two: The Madness Chapter Sixteen
at a full run the Masker wheeled to the left at the corner onto New Street and Matthew followed, narrowly missing banging his knee against a watering-trough.
It was true that Matthew was neither a sportsman nor a swordsman, but it was equally true that he could run. This skill had probably been refined during his days as a waterfront urchin before he was forcibly taken to the orphanage, as it took the fleet of foot to steal food and dodge billyclubs. Now it served him well, as he was catching up to his quarry; also paramount in his mind was the fact that it was safer to keep the Masker in front of him, yet he was ready at any second for the man to whirl around with an outstretched blade. ausley didn't need the walking-stick any longer, but Matthew clung to it like life.
"Constable!" Matthew shouted again, and now the Masker took a severe turn to the left and, cloak flying, disappeared into the space between the silversmith's and the house next door. Matthew lifted the lantern with its paltry light; his pace faltered and he had only seconds to decide whether to go in or not before the Masker would be lost.
He held up the stick to ward off an attack, took a breath, and darted to the chase. The little passageway was so narrow it nearly scraped his shoulders. He came to another opening and found himself in someone's garden. a brick pathway led off to the right, with a white wall and a gate on the left. a dog began barking furiously to the right and in that direction the voice of some frightened citizen shouted, "Who's therei Who's therei"
Matthew could hear shouts also from over on Barrack Street. ausley's body had been discovered. In for a penny, in for a pound, he thought. He began running again along the pathway and in a moment passed under a rose arbor. Then there was another wall ahead of him with the wooden gate open, and when Matthew went through this there was a holler, "I see you, damn you!" from the house on his right. With a flash and a bang a pistol discharged from an upper window and a lead ball shrieked past Matthew's ear. He didn't wait for further introductions; he took to his heels, went over a waist-high picket fence, and then the dog that had been barking lunged at him with snapping teeth and wild eyes but its night-chain yanked it back before flesh could be served.
Now Matthew didn't fear the Masker so much as whatever else lay in wait, but going through another gate he came around a privy where the lantern's light picked out a dark shape climbing over a stone wall about eight feet high. The Masker had dragged a barrel over to stand on, and as Matthew shouted again for a constable the dark figure secured the heights, paused to kick over the barrel, and then dropped onto the other side. Matthew heard footsteps running on stones, heading toward the docks.
He righted the barrel, climbed up, and also went over. He landed on the uneven stones of a narrow alley that ran behind the houses and shops of New Street. This was an excellent place to twist an ankle, a fact he could only hope the Masker had already discovered. He continued on along the alleyway but at a walk. His light was almost out, he was breathing hard, and unless the Masker had circled around behind him with intent to claim a second victim this night, the man was gone.
From the sounds of the yelling on Barrack Street, the barking of more dogs, and the calling of neighbors one to another, the entire town was coming awake. If I were the Masker, Matthew thought, I'd call a finish to this night and go to my secure place, wherever that might be. Still, there were many places the Masker could be hidden in ambush as Matthew approached. On the left was a barn. Beside it lay a jumble of debris, old broken buckets, coils of rope, wagon wheels, and the like. On the right was the rear of a store and a root cellar. Matthew tried the root cellar's door but it was bolted from within. He went on, shining his fading lamp to both sides. Most of the houses and shops had root cellars, and here and there were gates that led either into more Dutch gardens or out to the right onto New Street or to the left onto Broad Street.
as Matthew walked on, his lantern uplifted and the walking-stick thrust out like a rapier, he kept watch for any trace of movement beyond the edges of light. From the noise on Barrack Street, the demise of Eben ausley had caused either a riot or a party.
The end of the alleyway, which was about as wide as a horse-cart, was not far distant. It opened onto Beaver Street, where Matthew could see the shine of a cornerpost lamp on a glass window. He kept moving his lantern from side to side, looking at the stones for anything the Masker might have dropped in his haste to escape. It would be a good idea, he decided, to retrace the path he'd come. But then again, that was best left to daylight for he was not about to be shot at twice in one night.
and then, quite suddenly, the light showed him something that stopped him in his tracks.
On the handle to a root cellar door on his left was a dark red smear.
He bent over it and examined it more carefully. His heart, which had not had an easy time of it during the last few minutes, began to pound anew. It was a small smear, yes. But it was wet and fresh, and it might have come from a bloody glove.
He hooked a finger under the door's handle and tried to lift it, but it was locked. He stepped back and looked at the structure. a two-story brick house or a shop of some kindi It was hard to tell from here. No lights shone in any of the windows. He found a pathway to the front and a wrought-iron gate that opened onto Broad Street. Just as he was about to go through, two men with lanterns came running past on their way to, presumably, the murder scene. He decided to give them time to make some distance, as he didn't wish to be either interrupted or assaulted by some terrified constable. When the men were gone, Matthew emerged through the gate onto Broad Street and looked up at the building before him.
Now he could see illumination, two or three candles' worth it appeared, up in a room on the second floor. He could also make out the sign on its hooks above the door.
Pollard, Fitzgerald, and Kippering, attorneys.
Matthew went up the three front steps and used the brass knocker, which sounded equally as loud as the gunshot.
He waited, looking south along Broad Street in case anyone else came running past. There was no reply from within the lawyers' office, yet upon an appraisal of the upstairs window it did appear that at least one of the candles had moved. Matthew hated to knock again, as the noise sounded as if it could wake the dead, but he was determined to get in.
Perhaps ten seconds passed, with no response. He was about to use his fist when he heard a latch being undone. The door opened, and at that instant the last light of Matthew's lantern fizzled out.
another candle was thrust almost into his face.
"Youi What the hell do you wanti"
Matthew squinted in the glare of a fresh wick. He knew the voice. "I hate to bother you, sir, but I assume you've heard a little noise just latelyi"
"I have," said Kippering. "Fools shouting the town down, and what sounded like a gun going off. What's happenedi"
"Haven't you been curious enough to venture out to seei"
"Should I have beeni"
"Do you make a habit of answering a question with a questioni"
"When the question is from a clerk at my office door near midnight, yes." Kippering lowered the candle, which was set in a pewter holder. Matthew noted that the man was wearing the same rather tatty black suit he'd worn at the Thorn Bush, and now Kippering's appearance matched his clothing. He looked haggard and tired with dark circles under his eyes, his mouth slack and his blue eyes more watery than icy. at that moment three men and a woman were going past on the sidewalk, heading north. Two of the men were armed, one with a musket and the other with an axe. "Here!" Kippering called to them. "What's happenedi"
"another murder," answered one of the men. "The Masker's cut somebody's head off!" They rushed on, almost gleefully.
"a little exaggeration," Matthew said, "but centrally true. The Masker has killed Eben ausley. He's lying up there on Barrack Street."
"Whoi" Kippering blinked heavily. "The Masker or ausleyi"
"ausley. are you illi"
"a matter of conjecture, I'm sure." Kippering ran a hand through his thick and unruly hair, and the black comma fell back onto his forehead. "So ausley's dead, is hei" He seemed to look at Matthew fully for the first time, and then his gaze found the walking-stick. He took it from Matthew's hand and examined it more closely in the light. "If I'm not mistaken-and I'm not-this belongs to ausley. He had it at the Thorn Bush. almost brained Tom Fletcher. May I ask what you're doing in possession of iti"
"You may, but first I have to ask if I might inspect your cellar."
"Inspect my cellari What are you going on abouti"
Matthew said, "I was first on the scene when ausley was killed. I saw the Masker, just as he'd finished his work. I took the stick as a weapon and chased after him. He led me here."
"Herei" Kippering scowled. "You're the one who's ill, boy."
"He led me to the alley behind your office. On the door to your root cellar is a blood smear. From a glove, perhaps. I should like to have a look down there." Matthew reached out and grasped the stick. When he tried to pull it away, he met a little resistance; then Kippering released his grip and gave it up. "Will you show me, or shall I go for a constablei"
"The cellar door's bolted from within. It's always bolted."
"That may be so, but someone left blood on the doorhandle. I'd like to take a look."
"What are you sayingi That I'm the Maskeri" Kippering offered up a crooked grin. "Oh, certainly! after the night I've had, I surely gathered up the energy to go out prowling the streets and ended my festivities by murdering another of our clients. at this rate we'll be out of business in a week."
"ausley was your clienti I didn't know."
Kippering seemed to be listening to the noise over on Barrack Street. a few more people rushed past the office door. He gave a long, weary sigh. "I suppose I ought to go represent the estate. Keep the fools from trampling him flat." He refocused his gaze on Matthew. "You saw the Maskeri"
"I did. Not his face, unfortunately."
"There's blood on the cellar doori"
"Come in." Kippering opened the door wider, and Matthew entered. When Kippering started to close the door, Matthew said, "I'd appreciate it if you'd leave that open."
"I can assure you that the only thing I've killed tonight is half a bottle of brandy and a lot of time."
"Please leave the door open," Matthew insisted in a calm voice, and Kippering shrugged.
"This way." Kippering led him past a narrow staircase to another door. He paused to light a second candle in a pewter holder that was sitting atop a stack of books on a table and this he gave to Matthew, who laid aside the dead lantern. "I hope you're not afraid of spiders," he said. He unhooked a latch and opened the door into the cellar's darkness. "Watch your step, these stairs are older than my grandmother."
Before they descended, Matthew requested that Kippering also leave that door open and go down first. "You're serious, aren't youi" Kippering asked, but then he took appraisal of Matthew's expression and obeyed. as he followed down the rickety old stairs, Matthew thought that sometimes it did pay to carry a big stick.
The candles seemed to throw more shadows than illumination. It was a large cellar with a dirt floor and brick walls. The old yellowish-white bricks, Matthew noted, that had originally come over as ballast on some of the first Dutch ships. Filling the place almost up to the raftered ceiling were battered wooden shelves full of decaying law books, parcels of papers wrapped in twine, and stacks upon stacks of more yellowed documents. Matthew thought that, though there was a sea dampness to the air, if a fire ever got loose in here it would burn steadily for a month. Discarded buckets, two broken chairs, a desk that looked as if it had been chewed by a beaver, and other odds-and-ends of office decor littered the chamber. Matthew went directly to the cellar door and inspected the bolt.
"anything therei" Kippering asked.
"No," came the answer. There was no blood on this side of the door. But that didn't stop Matthew from shining his candle around to check the steps and the floor. There were many footprints in the dirt, but why would there not bei He continued searching around boxes of papers. "What is all thisi" he asked.
"The underbelly of the legal profession." Kippering sat down on a large wooden trunk. "This is where the old deceased records lie in rotting perpetuity. Most of it dates back to before Charles Land took the firm over from Rolf Gorendyke. He left it all here for us to clean up, except Bryan thinks there'll be value to it someday as history and he wants to keep it. If Joplin and I had our way, we'd toss it tomorrow."
"Toss it wherei"
"Yes, well that's the problem, isn't iti We've thought of burning it, but..." He shrugged. "Maybe Bryan's right. Someday someone might give a damn about what went on here."
Matthew was still poking around and finding nothing but a rat's nest, both figuratively and literally. "You say Eben ausley was your clienti" he asked as he explored the room. "You don't seem so concerned that he's lying dead over on the next street."
"I had limited dealings with him. Joplin handled most everything. Records of contributions. Contracts for supplies and labor. Paperwork when the orphans found homes. Things such as that."
"I assume those more current documents are kept in better circumstancesi"
"File cabinets upstairs."
Matthew kept looking, but this path was showing no promise. "aren't you at all curiousi" he asked.
"Two things. Who killed ausley, and what the smear of blood on the door looks likei"
Kippering grunted and smiled thinly. "I hear," he said, "that ausley had lost a lot of money on the tables. He'd borrowed heavily, and lost most of that as well. The man was what you might call a gambling fanatic. In case you don't know, there are individuals in this town who lend money and aren't pleased when it's not promptly repaid. ausley unfortunately did not have the most charming personality, either. I think it was only a matter of time before someone either beat him to death or cut his throat, so this Masker person may have simply cheated the pawnbroker. as for the blood smear, I've seen them before. Still, I'll take your bait." He stood up with his candle, walked to the door, and threw back the bolt. Then he pushed the door open and stuck his head out to see.
Suddenly Matthew heard a frightened voice call from outside, "Hold there! Hold!"
"I'm just having a look around," Kippering explained to the unseen person.
"Just hold right there, I said! Do you have a weaponi"
"Settle down, Giles. It is Giles Wintergarten, isn't iti It's me, andrew Kippering. Look." Matthew envisioned him holding the light nearer his face.
"Dear God, Mr. Kipperin', you scared the shit into my drawers pokin' your head out like that! Don't you know there's been another murder right up the wayi I might have run you through!"
Matthew got the picture. a constable had been in the alley when the cellar door had opened. Carrying a sword, too, by the sound of it.
"The Masker's been at work, yessir!" said Wintergarten. "Cut the life out of Eben ausley and left him like a bloody bag up there on Barrack! But he got his, too, he did! Ol' Emory Coody shot him good and proper!"
"Emory Coodyi" Kippering asked. "The one-eyed weather-spyi"
"That's him! Lives right up the way!"
as the two spoke, Matthew found himself staring at the trunk upon which Kippering had been sitting. He walked to it, saw that there was no lock, and lifted the lid. His light fell upon what was inside, and after the jolt of surprise had subsided he thought, Now I've found you.
"Look here, Giles," Kippering was saying. "On the doorhandle. Blood. See iti"
"Yessir. Yessir, that does 'pear to be blood, don't iti"
"I think the Masker came along here and left his mark. Possibly he tried to open the door, but it was locked from the inside. You might want to take a careful stroll up and down the alley and check all the other cellar doors, yesi"
"Yessir, that would be the thing to do. I ought to go get some help, though."
"all right, but be careful. Oh, and listen: will you inform High Constable Lillehorne of this, and tell him I'd be happy to help him in any way possiblei"
"I will, sir. You ought to get in yourself now, Mr. Kippering. Work such as this ought to be left to the professionals."
"My thoughts exactly. Goodnight, Giles."
Kippering closed the door, rebolted it, and turned to face Matthew. "as I said, all blood smears look the same." He glanced at the open trunk. "What are you searching for nowi Costumes for the dancei"
"There are clothes in here," Matthew said, his voice tight.
"Yes, there are."
"There are gloves in here." Matthew held up a pair. They were black and made of thin cloth.
"Your powers of observation are stunning. You might also observe that those are women's gowns and underclothing." He held up a large hand, took two strides forward, and demonstrated how small the glove was. It looked to fit a child. "Women's gloves. I think there may be some men's shirts and a coat or two down there at the bottom, but I haven't gone all the way through. You'll note that everything is moldering and musty and is probably over twenty years old."
Matthew was flustered. He was so eager to believe he'd found the Masker's hidden cache of clothes that the first black gown on top had addled his brain. "Well...where did all this come fromi"
"We're not sure, but we think one of Gorendyke's clients used the trunk as payment for legal services. Or it might have come from the estate of someone who died aboard ship on the way over. We're going to throw it out, sooner or later. are you donei"
Matthew nodded, his brow furrowed.
Kippering closed the lid. "If you didn't hear, I showed Giles Wintergarten the blood smear and I told him to inform Lillehorne. I think the Masker either really did try to get in-though I didn't hear anything as I've been upstairs for at least an hour-or being such a clever murderer as you feel him to be, he deliberately left a mark for your benefit."
"For my benefiti Whyi"
"Well, he stopped your following him, didn't hei"
"He couldn't have known I would see the mark," Matthew said.
"No, but he might have reasoned the odds were on his side that you would." Kippering gave a smile, which on his usually handsome but now dark-shadowed face seemed a little ghastly. "I think the Masker might also be a gambler. Don't youi"
Matthew cast his eyes down. He didn't know what to think. as he was pondering what to him was an appalling lack of mental acuity, he saw his candlelight gleam on an object that leaned against one of the shelves. It was a strange object to be down here, he thought. a pair of hammered-brass firetongs, yet there was certainly no fireplace in the cellar.
He walked to the firetongs and picked them up. The business end of the tongs had been thinned by some scraping instrument or grinding wheel, it appeared. "What's this fori"
Kippering took the tongs, turned away, and reached up to a top shelf to grasp a packet of papers, which he brought down trailing dust. He waved the papers in front of Matthew's face before returning them to where they'd been likely situated for years.
Matthew sniffed, holding back a sneeze, and rubbed his nose.
"Want a drinki" Kippering asked. "I've got that half-bottle of brandy left. You can help me celebrate the fact that I only lost five shillings and eight pence at gambling tonight, and that I overpaid by twice for a cheap bottle of wine at Madam Blossom's."
"No," Matthew said, already feeling thoroughly debilitated. "Thank you."
"Then may I give you some free legal advicei" Kippering waited for Matthew to give him his full attention. "I would refrain from mentioning to anyone that you discovered ausley's body. That is, if you wish to remain free to walk around town."
"You were nearly first on the scene with Mr. Deverick, weren't youi and now first to find ausleyi I'd hate to think what Lillehorne might do with that, since he seems to consider you such an outspoken boon to his authority."
"I didn't murder anyone. Why should I not tell Lillehornei"
"Because," Kippering said, "the high constable will find your presence at both murders so interesting that he will wish to know what you were doing out tonight. and even though you and I may believe that Lillehorne is not entirely up to the job, he is relentless when it suits him to be. Thus he will wish to know in exacting detail your progress through this night, and he may well feel you are best questioned behind the security of iron bars. He will ask questions here and there and there and here, and sooner or later he'll find out that you and the future husband of our good reverend's daughter were meeting at a rather dismal little drinking and gambling establishment festooned with whores. For privacy, did you sayi Do you see my directioni"
Matthew did, but he remained sullenly silent.
"Of course you do," Kippering went on. "Now I don't know what you and Mr. Five were talking about in that back room, but you can be sure Lillehorne will find out."
"That has nothing to do with the Masker. It's private business."
"Yes, you keep using that word, and that will only feed Lillehorne's desire to root out whatever secret you have." He paused to let Matthew feel the sting of that particular fish-hook. "Now in a few minutes I'm going to put on my official lawyer's face, straighten my suit and comb my hair, and walk out to stand alongside ausley's corpse until the body-cart pulls up. I suggest you go home, go to bed, and in the morning you are as surprised to hear of Eben ausley's death as anyone in New York. How does that settle with youi"
Matthew thought about it, though there wasn't a lot of thinking to be done. It wouldn't do for questions to be asked about Matthew's jaunts this night, not with Reverend Wade's problem still unknown. He said quietly, "It settles."
"Good. Incidentally, I'm sure Giles will carry that information about the blood smear straight to Lillehorne, in case you're thinking this is an attempt to keep you from telling anyone. I assure you I couldn't care less, just so long as he doesn't come up behind me on a dark night." Kippering motioned Matthew toward the stairs.
at the front, Matthew hesitated in the doorway before Kippering could shut him out. He gazed up at the candle-illuminated window. "Tell me, if you will," he said, "why you're at work so late."
Kippering kept the faint smile on his face. "I don't sleep very well. Never have. Goodnight. Oh...two last things: I should avoid the crowd up there on Barrack, and I should beware not the Masker but some frightened rabbit with a blunderbuss." So saying, he pushed the door shut and Matthew heard the latch fall.
Matthew looked toward City Hall and saw the wash of candlelight in two of the attic's small square windows. He'd never been up there before, as access to that area was by invitation only; that portion was the office and also the living quarters of ashton McCaggers, whose abilities as coroner more than made up for his eccentricities. It appeared McCaggers was awake and preparing for another session in the cold room.
Zed would be hauling the body-cart past here soon. It was time to go.
Matthew crossed Broad Street to Princes Street, intending to go back up Smith and then to the Broad Way and home, thus bypassing that noisy rabble gathered around the corpse of Eben ausley. as he made his way past the late-flickering lamps on their cornerposts, the warm breeze moving about him with its leathery smells of dockside tar and sewer ditch, he knew he would find sleep a troubling companion this night. There would be many echoes in his mind calling for recognition or resolve, and many that might never be resolved. In truth, he felt fortunate to have survived not only a gunshot and dog attack but the Masker himself, who might easily have turned on him and cut him to pieces with a hooked blade.
as for ausley, he felt...nothing.
No anger, no sadness, no loss, no gain, no sense of justice, no exultation at the death of a wicked man.
He felt as if a slate within him upon which he'd marked balances for such a very long time had been wiped clean. Just that.
When he reached the safety of the pottery, he left the walking-stick on the ground alongside the building. He intended to rise with the sun, take the stick out to the East River, and consign it to dark water, where it might vanish in time from sight and memory like its late owner.
Matthew went up to bed, remembering to wash his hands.
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