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Authors: Don Gutteridge

Tags: #serial killer, #twins, #mystery series, #upper canada, #canadian mystery, #marc edwards, #marc edwards mystery series, #obsessional love twins

Governing Passion

BOOK: Governing Passion
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Governing Passion
A Marc Edwards Mystery

 

 

 

by

Don Gutteridge

 

 

ISBN: 978-1-927789-50-6

 

Published by Bev Editions at Smashwords

 

 

Copyright 2015 Don Gutteridge

 

 

 

Smashwords License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
If you would like to share this book with another person, please
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Table of Contents

 

 

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Author’s Note

About the Author

Other Books in the Marc Edwards Mystery
Series

Excerpt From
The Widow’s Demise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONE

 

The three Cavaliers, as they dubbed themselves, were
having a somewhat quiet evening at Madame LaFrance’s bordello. One
of the better things about Madame’s establishment was that you had
a wide choice of gentlemanly pleasures to while away a snowy
evening in early March of 1841. There was always, of course,
several young women happy to follow you up the carpeted stairs to
one of the cramped but well-swept cubicles where a fellow’s lusts
and fancies could be stoked or assuaged. There was a roaring fire
in the fieldstone fireplace, around which three or four easy chairs
could be comfortably arranged, with snifters of brandy appearing as
if by magic on one’s outstretched fingertips. A tray of Cuban
cigars was ever displayed on a tiny trundle-table discreetly pushed
about by the luscious Nell, if she weren’t otherwise occupied. At
the far end of the spacious room sat a pianoforte of some quality,
upon which, at appropriate moments during the course of an evening,
Sally Butts would perch, revealing the better parts of her legs and
a tempting curvature of breast. Sally sang like the proverbial
nightingale, or as Sir Lancelot himself said more often than
necessary, like a woods warbler. She was accompanied by Old Henry,
who some said had once been Madame LaFrance’s lover. Sally’s
lilting voice was perfectly suited to the carpeted and heavily
draped space of the “gentleman’s room,” with its Persian rugs, its
velvet curtains pulled shyly across the big bay window, its mohair
furniture imported from England, and its tender-lit candelabra.

This particular evening, Sally Butts had sung
only once, a beautiful but frail French ballad. Then, apologizing
for the cold in her head and chest, she slipped away. The Cavaliers
applauded enthusiastically, then settled back in their chairs about
the fire, sipping on their third brandy. No-one said it aloud, but,
in the absence of Sally Butts’s song-making, there was tacit
agreement that these knights of the house of easy virtue would
forgo the pleasures of the flesh in favour of an hour’s
conversation over drinks and cigars, distracted only by Nell or
Sarie or Blanche sliding across one’s lap every fifteen minutes or
so and bussing one on the cheek. And the conversation this night
was on the usual topic: politics.

“I suppose you’ve heard the rumour that
LaFontaine has taken up temporary residence in Kingston,” said
Bartholomew Pugh with a disapproving jiggle of his jowls.

“My dear Gawain,” replied Gardiner Clough,
referring to the name Pugh had taken when the three had first
plotted sojourns to Madame LaFrance’s place here in the heart of
Devil’s Acre, “I have had that news confirmed in a letter I
received just this morning.”

“What do you think that means’” asked Simon
Whitemarsh, waving off young Nell, who was determined, it seemed,
to break up their colloquy.

“Some Galahad you are!” she teased and swung
her rump saucily away.

“Shall you tell him, Lancelot, or shall I?”
Pugh said. “Either way it’s bad news.”

“Bad news?” said Whitemarsh. “If it’s about
frogs, it’s always bad news.”

Clough set down his brandy. “Whenever
LaFontaine is in the same town as Robert Baldwin, there’s bound to
be trouble.”

“The French leader and the so-called head of
the Reform party are trying once again to forge some kind of
alliance,” Pugh said. He was a short, fat, red-faced fellow with
pale blue eyes that watered constantly. He was bald except for two
tufts of unbrushable hair that stood up on his scalp like
exclamation points. “Neither group on its own will elect enough
members in the April election to make any kind of splash in the new
Parliament.”

“But together they could spell trouble for
royalists like ourselves,” Clough pointed out with the candour he
had displayed years ago when he had been a practising barrister.
The only thing he practised of late was how to get the most out of
his wife’s money.

“They couldn’t possibly constitute a majority
in the House, could they?” Whitemarsh said. He was a grey-haired
haberdasher in his mid-fifties, with pasty-white skin and drooping
eyes that looked perpetually on the verge of sleep. Those who
didn’t care for him attributed the latter quality to his
frequenting the opium room just behind the curtains in back of the
piano.

“Only if LaFontaine can keep his own troops
in line and Baldwin can unite the fractious group of Reformers and
Clear Grits,” Pugh said. “And what chance is there of that, eh,
Lancelot?”

Clough nodded his agreement. “There are
extreme nationalists in the Quebec camp who will not sit with
anyone who speaks English, regardless of the policies they
espouse.” Clough was a tall man with cadaverous features and the
posture of a crane. His black hair and dark eyes had once
terrorized courtrooms. But that was long ago. Now he looked merely
brittle.

“But you think LaFontaine is in Kingston to
try the impossible?” Whitemarsh said.

“There can be no other reason,” Pugh said,
smiling at young Sarie as she brushed by him with a gust of
perfume. “Baldwin is there with his entire retinue, preparing for
the upcoming election and plotting strategy thereafter. He’s got
Francis Hincks with him and that upstart barrister, Marc Edwards.
They’re not in drafty Kingston in the middle of winter for their
health.”

“I hear they’re progressing well with
reconstructing the hospital into a suitable legislature,”
Whitemarsh said, happy to be contributing something to the
conversation.

“I still think the capital of the united
Canada should have been here in Toronto,” Clough said. “We already
have a splendid building.”

“It was all politics,” Pugh said with a
banker’s disdain for the messy world outside the clarity of high
finance. “They had to appease the Frenchies by moving it out of
Toronto and closer to the Quebec border. So Kingston, ready or not,
was it.”

“I hear they’re reconstructing the better
half of the town to make it agreeable for gentlemen,” Clough said
with some envy.

“Not disagreeable to the banking profession,
eh?” Pugh smiled.

These topics were ruminated upon for another
twenty minutes, with no resolution but much satisfaction. The
female inmates of the hostel had gracefully given up, happy to
accommodate other well-turned-out gentlemen who drifted in from
time to time. Fresh logs were placed on the fire by one of the lads
who did the heavy lifting in the brothel; cigar and pipe smoke
thickened the air; and the brandy gradually but surely induced a
not-unpleasant drowsiness.

“Well, my fine-fettled knights,” said
Bartholomew Pugh, “let’s brave the snow and the dark and return to
our homes. I, like Lancelot here, have a faithful wife waiting for
me.”

“And I have a faithful wolfhound,” Whitemarsh
said.

“You’re not going to take some comfort from
the room next door?” Clough said, surprised.

“Not tonight, no. I’ve got a special sale on
tomorrow at the shop, and I want to be clear-headed.”

“You’re not going home this early?” said
Madame LaFrance, who had been sitting tactfully in her chair next
to the piano, rising only to answer the door from time to time. The
girls arranged their own encounters and kept track of the fare.
They were veterans all, and knew their business. “Nell in
particular will be disappointed,” she continued. At this latter
remark she gave out a sardonic laugh and took Whitemarsh by the
elbow. “And you’re giving up my sweet Sarie for an Irish
wolfhound?”

“We could be persuaded to stay tonight only
if Sally Butts were to sing us another love song,” Pugh said. “Who
knows? She might get us in the mood.”

“We’re leaving a little something for her
anyway,” Clough said, reaching for his coat from the halltree by
the door.

“The poor darling’s sick,” Madame LaFrance
said, unable to keep the skepticism out of her voice. She was a
generously fleshed, blowsy woman of indeterminate age, with a soft,
round face and fluffed-out curls. But the impression of softness
was belied by her small, beady eyes that darted about in their
large sockets like loose coins. “Claims to have the croup,” she
said.

“We’ll be back tomorrow night,” Pugh said,
squeezing into his greatcoat. “And we’re likely to subscribe to
your full service, Madame.”

“No sense in going too long without it,”
Madame replied, “when it’s readily available here every night of
the week.”

Just as the three Cavaliers were slipping
their gloves on, Sally Butts came out of a back room, fully dressed
for the outdoors, and walked past them and out the front door,
leaving a little shudder of pleasure in her wake. The gentlemen
were especially taken with her blond curls, whose tips could still
be seen at the edges of her kerchief.

“I’ve sent her home for the evening,” Madame
said. “But she’ll be here tomorrow night for sure. And in fine
voice, I promise you.”

“So shall we, Madame.”

Moments later, as the three gentlemen stepped
out into the snow, Madame LaFrance turned to Nell and Sarie and
said with a rasping laugh, “If those fellows are cavaliers, then my
arse is the ace of spades!”

“Their money is good, though,” Nell
suggested.

“And Lancelot they don’t,” Sarie chipped
in.

Madame LaFrance slammed the door shut against
the snow.

***

On the stoop, the Cavaliers said their goodnights
and parted company. Pugh went west towards Church Street, Clough
east towards Jarvis, and Whitemarsh south towards King. But none
had a straightforward walk, for Devil’s Acre was a rabbit warren of
crooked streets and mismatched alleys. It sat like a seething boil
just north of St. James Cathedral, a shanty town that had sprung up
haphazardly in the respectable heart of the city. It was rumoured
to be populated by thieves and desperate men, but since every
second structure was either a makeshift tavern selling bootleg
booze or a house of pleasure where gambling and prostitution were
de rigueur, there were not that many shanties housing either
criminals or deadbeats. In fact, most of the traffic – principally
at night – was
from
the precincts of town
to
the
pleasure nodes of Devil’s Acre, and then out again when dawn or
exhaustion arrived. So lucrative were the dives, opium dens and
brothels that there seemed no need for theft or violence. Gentlemen
were pleased to part with their money peacefully.

And so Gawain, Lancelot and Galahad felt
perfectly safe in leaving one another to walk unescorted through
the maze of alleys to the respectable streets that would see them
home. Likewise, Sally Butts, who walked home alone every midnight
when her stint at Madame LaFrance’s was completed. The brothel
itself was in the dead-centre of Devil’s Acre and was the only
brick building in the complex, a substantial two-storey structure
that had originally been the manor house of an estate once
occupying the “acre,” but abandoned years before. Madame LaFrance
had seen her chance and actually had title to the place. Her
experience as a madam in England had held her in good stead as she
refurbished it and turned it into a palace of pleasure.

BOOK: Governing Passion
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